There is something perfectly intriguing about watching people play out their ordinary lives. Many a movie has taken this approach to differing effect and Ghost World falls into the category of a movie where very little really happens. For this to work effectively, you need a cast who are compelling, characters who are intriguing and a plot which has some semblance of direction, even if it feels uneventful. Ghost World manages two of these three very well but falters slightly on the third.
The realism of the story is the most positive aspect of the movie. Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson play Enid and Rebecca respectively, two disillusioned teenage girls, about to leave high school and find themselves fairly directionless in a small town with little prospects. We are introduced to them bitching about people they see in a café, belittling classmates and meandering through their existence. They feel genuine though and you truly believe they are these girls, who have known each other all their lives and want so much more from their boring existence. This makes it interesting to watch.
To say there is no story is misleading, as there are key moments, namely when they read a “missed connection” ad and respond as if they are the woman the desperate man is searching for. This leads to slight rift between the girls and a strange relationship between the Birch’s Enid and Steve Buscemi’s Seymour, who enters their lives whether he wanted to or not. The scenes between Birch and Buscemi are some of the movie’s best and the film follows the development of their strange but still very real relationship as it unfolds.
It makes for an unconventional plot, one made up of tiny events rather than a huge plot point the whole film hinges upon. Some of this plays out as you would expect but other moments are perfectly strange and can be very funny, building on the bizarre. From strange parties, failed job opportunities and conflicts over their futures, you see the two teenage girls struggling with what their future holds and it keeps your attention very well, for the most part.
As Johansson’s Rebecca seems to move onward and the Buscemi and Birch story comes to a natural conclusion, the film struggles to effectively resolve the plot points its created, even if they are minor and the movie loses its momentum, never really satisfying as it comes to its conclusion. Although this could be because it is so clearly hinged on a realistic tale.
Overall, Ghost World is an effective drama, which takes realistic characters and very well-written stories and invites the audience to watch them play out. Birch, Johansson and Buscemi are fantastic, creating some compelling and very funny scenes. Unfortunately, it struggles to maintain this momentum and the third act can’t live up to the first two.
Rating – 4
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