MGM Studios DVD presents
Ghost World (2001)
Enid: I think only stupid people have good relationships.Seymour: That's the spirit.- Thora Birch, Steve Buscemi
Stars: Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, Steve Buscemi
Other Stars: Brad Renfro, Illeana Douglas, Bob Balaban, Teri Garr, David Cross, Patrick Fischler, Dave Sheridan
Director: Terry Zwigoff
MPAA Rating: R for strong language and some sexual content
Run Time: 01h:51m:20s
Release Date: 2002-02-05
DVD ReviewAfter the award-winning documentary Crumb, everyone told director Terry Zwigoff that the last thing he should do is make another film based on a comic book. So, of course, his next film was an adaptation Daniel Clowes' critically acclaimed comic Ghost World. The comic focused on the lives of two loner girls just out of high school, and the way they change over the course of a summer. The dialogue and characterizations were so realistic that some people accused Clowes of following high school girls with a tape recorder. Well, Clowes didn't follow girls around; he and Zwigoff collaborated on the script until they felt it was perfect. The result is a fresh and invigorating look at the oft-ignored lives of teenagers, especially young social misfits.Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) are two outcasts who find solace in each other and attacking almost everything around them with biting sarcasm. Rebecca gets a job and wants both of them to move in together, but Enid is reluctant to get a job and become a normal part of society. Instead, she draws in her sketchbook and hangs out with Rebecca and Josh (Bred Renfro). When Enid and Rebecca find a particularly pathetic entry in the classifieds section of the paper, they decide to play a trick on the person who wrote it, Seymour (Steve Buscemi). They play their trick, and end up following him to his house. A few days later, they go to a garage sale that Seymour is having, and Enid buys a blues collection. She is transfixed by one song, and goes back to talk to Seymour about it. Enid becomes engrossed with his introverted and unique style of living, and decides to find him a date. Enid and Seymour get closer and closer, while Enid and Rebecca drift further apart. Eventually Enid's decisions come crashing down around her until she thinks she is left with only one way out (and no, I don't mean suicide).Being a huge Clowes fan, I immediately compared the movie to the comic. The biggest advantage it has over the film is that, while it's Enid's story, Rebecca plays a much larger part in the comic, which gives Enid's story more context and scope. In fact, in the film, it is hard to understand why Rebecca is friends with Enid at all, or somehow considers herself outside the mainstream. She is portrayed as a dullard with little interesting to say or think, which is compounded by Scarlett Johanson's flat and banal performance. She is not the foil Enid needs to make her story the most focused it can be. Several important scenes with Josh were written and filmed but taken out of the final cut, which I think hurts the film, as it would have provided Enid and Rebecca's relationship with more dynamics. Ultimately, the ending also suffers as a result of the poor handling of the girls' interaction; Clowes and Zwigoff try to counter this loss with the Seymour character, who only appeared for a few panels in the comic. While many of the Seymour scenes are funny and interesting in their own right, they is no way they can compensate for what is essentially the loss of the two driving supporting characters from the original story.On the other hand, a lot of the film is taken directly from the comic. The Satanists in the diner, the bad comedian Joey McCobb, John Ellis, Goofy Gus and the garage sale, the "bad punk day," Adam's II (called Anthony's in the film) and more. Despite the problems listed above, when Clowes and Zwigoff stick to the source material, they prove they can adapt it beautifully, sometimes doing word-for-word recreations of moments in the comic book and pulling them off with exquisite comic timing. Clowes and Zwigoff also add some new elements, the funniest being the summer school art class taught by pretentious and untalented Roberta Allsworth (Illeana Douglas), who values the most absurd attempts at conceptual art and ignores Enid's obvious artistic talents. Other hilarious film-specific scenes are the graduation party sequence (which provides the funniest sight gag in the whole film involving Enid and a pineapple), the high school graduation itself (sponsored by Hostess, Dunkin' Donuts, and Tropicana), and, of course, Doug (Dave Sheridan). Doug steals the show as an obnoxious lay-about whose sole purpose is to aggravate the owner of the convenience store known as The Sidewinder. Also look for cameos from David Cross (Mr. Show and Waiting for Guffman), as a sleazeball at a party, Bob Balaban (also from Waiting for Guffman and Best In Show) as Enid's dad, and Teri Garr as Enid's ex-stepmom.Aside from the humor, the one thing the movie really gets right is the portrayal of Enid. The writing brings out the full depth of the character, and Thora Birch was perfectly cast: she looks like Enid and gives a performance that does the character justice. Enid is the kind of person who looks around her and is horrified by the commercialization and steamrolling of anything unique in the culture. She knows what she doesn't like, but her problem is that she doesn't know what she does like. She's become so used to tearing things down that it's hard for her to take anything seriously anymore. In an attempt to break free from the constraints of popular culture, she becomes trapped by it, albeit in a different way than the people Enid constantly makes fun of. Her dilemma is the real story, and that is why the film is a success, despite the fact that it's not quite as good as the comic.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Ghost World, as befitting such a recent film, has a transfer that is to die for. I saw the film several times in the theater, so I can attest to the fact that the color reproduction on this disc is precise and practically perfect. Grain is nonexistent, the picture is not too dark or too light, and compression artifacts don't even dare to show their mark. After going over the movie several times, I noticed a few tiny blemishes on the print (and when I say tiny, I mean they're the smallest possible), but unless you're told exactly where and when they occur they will go basically unnoticed.
Image Transfer Grade: A+
Audio Transfer Review: I find Ghost World's 5.1 surround mix to be interesting. The surrounds are used for the score or ambient noise in a place like a bar, but for the most part the sound is centered on the front three speakers. What I find interesting is how different it is from the original theatrical soundtrack. For example, when Enid is taking her summer art class for the first time, in the theater, the sound of her sketching is predominant in the mix. On the DVD, the sound is buried so deep I had to blast the volume before I could hear it. On the other hand, I didn't notice muzak playing in the Sidewinder until the DVD, where it was clear in the mix. The end result is that the 5.1 mix is very good, with plenty of subtleties to be found, but it is slightly different from the theatrical mix, although this doesn't diminish the viewing experience.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Princess Bride: Special Edition, Terminator: Special Edition
1 TV Spots/Teasers
4 Deleted Scenes
- Gumanaam Music Video "Jann Pehechaan Ho"
Extras Grade: C
Final CommentsLike all film adaptations of previously written literary material, there will inevitably be differences between the source and the film, and Ghost World is no exception. The truth of the matter is that the movie is simply not as good as the comic it's based on. And yet for all that, Ghost World has a savage wit and a complete grasp of the main character, Enid, so that even people who prefer the comic cannot deny the film's good qualities. And those qualities are more than enough to make it one of the best of 2001, and another success for Terry Zwigoff. The only complaint I can give about this disc is the disappointing lack of extras, especially MGM's decision not to include several substantial deleted scenes. But even these drawbacks cannot stop me from recommending the DVD, as the sound and picture are both excellent, and the film is a keeper in any medium.
Daniel Hirshleifer 2002-02-04