Ghost World follows the story of two world weary teens, Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) during that scary, post-high school graduation time of life as they try to make their way (read: find themselves) in the real world. Though there are teenagers in this movie, do not confuse this fact with Ghost World being a teen movie.

Almost a live action follow up to MTV’s Daria (for that matter, it is a live action version of the comic book Ghost World), these are the too smart by half, best friend, outsider girls who learned to face the (high school) world while having each others back. They exude a “better than you” realness among the odd collection of characters that make up their small town. Displaying a certain post-modern crankiness (“Everyone is too stupid.”), they go about figuring out how to get a long in life, in very different ways.

This movie is about realness. Cool becomes defined by one’s realness, so much of the movie is a search of how to express one’s self. Enid and Rebecca make sport of others, following and embarrassing interesting people. That is how she comes to meet Seymour (the ever cool, even when playing an adult nerd/misanthrope, Steve Buscemi), collector of of vintage blues, jazz, and ragtime 78s, making fun of him until she comes to see a lot of herself in him. Rebecca, with ideas of moving out on her own and heading to college, starts growing up, straining the friendship. Enid, an artist at heart though she hasn’t quite realized it, adopts looks and styles in search of her real self. Playing the outsider, her look and attitude are designed to alienate before anyone gets the opportunity to reject her. Enid’s art teacher tries to help her students “find the key to your particular lives”.

This movie also cries out with the realization that people are relational beings. Seymour “can’t connect with other people so [he] fills [his] life with stuff.” But he does have a morose, black humor that is his defense mechanism. For that matter, most of the characters have difficulty relating to the rest of humanity. Enid, after a particularly frustrating bout, declares that “only stupid people have good relationships.” The problem isn’t Enid, of course, it’s that the rest of the world can’t understand her. But it’s that very real sense of comfortable aloneness that Enid responds to in Seymour (though they are too alike to stay together) and we respond to in Enid.

Okay, so everyone in this movie needs a hug.

In this age of homogenized strip malls and coffee franchises, the “Ghost World” that the title refers to is the loss of any sense of character or true originals. Original, somewhat meandering, and smart, this movie is both funny and sad at the same time, almost uncomfortable to watch. But definitely worth watching.

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