The independent news organization of Duke University

Got Spirit?

You have to respect a film like Ghost World. Small, independent and quirky, it posesses an underlying intelligence that is refreshing in what has been an otherwise brainless past several months of movies.

But in its attempt to defy the typical Hollywood formula for big box-office numbers, Ghost World falls short in the one area that almost all of the so-called popcorn movies stack up on: fun.

Don't get me wrong. I'd recommend Ghost World over almost every other film in the theaters right now. But is it fun? Not really.

Movies are supposed to be entertaining. Whether deeply intellectual or socially conscious or 100 percent serious, films should engage the audience and allow them to sit back and enjoy the ride.

Perhaps the reason Ghost World doesn't succeed on this count is that the characters--while complicated and well-rounded--are incredibly dull.

Thora Birch, who jumped onto the scene in 1999 as Kevin Spacey's daughter in American Beauty, is Enid, a recent high school graduate who must enter the real world that she has been longing for.

She is accompanied by her best friend, Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson), who, though more serious than Enid, shares with her a rebellious anti-status-quo attitude that sometimes gets the two into trouble.

On one occasion, they play a prank on a stranger: Steve Buscemi's Seymour, an uninspired jazz music junkie who collects records and sells them at flea markets on the weekends. Enid feels sorry for Seymour, however, and quickly befriends him. The film then follows Enid's evolving relationships with Rebecca and Seymour while she tries to find her place in the real world.

Though the setup is good and the dialogue and acting are strong, the characters are simply boring to watch. Seymour, though good-hearted, is supposed to be tedious, and Buscemi easily accomplishes this. Rebecca starts off with some vigor, but once she gets a job and an apartment, both Enid and the audience lose all interest in her. And Enid's journey to find herself in a cynical world doesn't really go anywhere. We are left yearning for some scene in which we can really become emotionally involved with her--a moment that ultimately never happens.

Ghost World is based on a comic book by Daniel Cloves, who penned the screenplay, and it was directed by Terry Zwigoff (Crumb). The intentions of both Cloves and Zwigoff, along with those of the cast, are good, but Ghost World ultimately doesn't deliver on the fun.


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