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Movie Review

Ghost World

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Directed by Terry Zwigoff, starring Thora Birch, Steve Buscemi and Scarlett Johansson.

The best days of your life? Not for Enid (Birch) and Rebecca (Johansson), school leavers who are so happy to escape the classroom that they can't be bothered with college and decide to take any job just to get them out of their parents' houses.

With an outlook ranging from burnt to charcoal, they wander around the cracked sidewalks of LA, dismissing everything and everyone with their buckshot cynicism and one line putdowns. Their latest victim is Seymour (Buscemi), an antique record fan who works for a fried chicken chain and uses the personal columns in a bid to find that special someone.

After a very cruel joke, Enid befriends him and comes to realise that behind the ultra obsessive collector there's a decent human trying to get out. But as Enid grows closer to the older man she begins to drift from her younger friend. Question is, has she enough faith in herself to commit to either of them?

With teenagers force fed such airbrushed dross (admit it: did you ever score with anyone who looked remotely like anyone from 'She's All That' etc etc?) it's a joy to find a film which captures the twilight hour between child and adulthood and is so saccharine free that you feel you either know, love or live with the people onscreen.

Adapted from Daniel Clowes' (who co-wrote the script) acclaimed graphic novel, 'Ghost World' captures the hopes, fears, tragedies and comedies of a generation in just under two hours and heralds the arrival of celebrated documentary maker Terry Zwigoff to drama in some style. Shot in dirty summer yellow with a brilliant soundtrack, Zwigoff visits a world of mullets, potbellies and clothes that just don't go together, where people wander like spirits, rarely making connections because they're either too scared or too jaded to do so.

The characters are a treat, from the profanity spouting Asian store owner to the marital arts oddball who hangs out in his parking lot. Leading them are Birch and Buscemi. In a far more complex and interesting role than her 'American Beauty' breakthrough, Birch mixes up boredom and innocence to create a character which should see people screaming "That's me! That's me!" screenwards at regular intervals. You love her one minute, you hate her the next, but you never lose sight of the fact that she's someone you'd like to hang around with.

Zwigoff has said that Buscemi is one of those rare actors who can do both comedy and drama and in 'Ghost World' he backs up his director's praises with a performance you could hang around a few years waiting to see the likes of again. He's made a living out of playing slightly manic snivelers but Seymour has a tenderness to him which suggests that this is the performance of Buscemi's career - thus far anyway. The scenes he spends with Birch, are so perfectly timed and measured that you'll replay them in your head time and time again - as a screen couple they're right up there with Bonnie and Clyde, Harold and Maude and all the other starcrossed duos.

The only real let down is that with Birch and Buscemi in such show stealing form, the scenes between the two girls suffer, and by the close seem to spend more time huffing than reaching the dramatic highs of the other onscreen relationship. Still, it's a small quibble for a film which borrows heavily from both 'Dazed and Confused' and Buscemi's own directorial debut 'Trees Lounge' while still retaining its own brand of wide-eyed narrow-minded fun.

One movie that kids should really bring their parents to.

Harry Guerin

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