Movie #52 2020: Ghost World (2001)

Funnily enough, the title of this movie is very apt in our current climate… but don’t worry, it has nothing to do with entire cities being deadly silent and empty.

Ghost World is a film that draws clear inspiration from prior movies of a similar genre, and has inspired many movies since. My first thought was that this is kind of like an indie, more depressing version of Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion. And no, that’s not a bad thing. You then have clear comparisons to newer features, particularly Greta Gerwig‘s Lady Bird, and Olivia Wilde‘s Booksmart. Look at it like this: it fits snugly somewhere in the early-2000s timeline and stands alongside some of the greatest movies ever led by a two women. Arguably, it’s on the same page as classics like Thelma & Louise, which few films manage to do.

My second thought was exactly this: is Scarlett Johansson an alien? This is nothing to do with the quality of the film at all, but it’s worth asking. I say this because what kind of freak 17 year old has a deeper voice then than when she’s 35? I’m being serious; it deeply confuses me.

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. The soundtrack and score in particular is one of the best things about it. The contrast between the quiet parts of this movie and the classical piano/orchestral background music is unique, and bloody brilliant. This is one of those films that combines both original score and popular music, but also manages to incorporate less well-known songs, such as music from the brilliant Skip James. It’s a killer soundtrack, one has to admit.

Drawing back to my previous point, I truly believe that Ghost World paved the way for future teen, lower budget ”nihilistic” movies. What’s strange about it is, it’s not actually nihilistic at all. This is a movie about trying to find meaning in something, which is not what I expected. One of the most ”on-the-nose” instances of this is via Enid’s foray into art classes. She finds supposed ”meaning” in art as she looks for meaning in her life. It’s deep without being annoying – something that modern films rarely find the right balance of today.

You can also file this movie under ”films in which a male director gets it right”. That is, in regards to female friendship. As a viewer, you totally believe every interaction between Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson to a point where you feel like you’ve had some of the same conversations before in your real life. (I’m not sure if male viewers would feel the same way, but there are plenty of movies about duos of dudes if you want to be petty about it).

One thing that was upsetting to see: Thora Birch in bed with Steve Buscemi. I love Buscemi almost more than any other male actor of his generation, but that was just… Let’s just say that was a scene that could be deleted. I’ve certainly erased it from my memory.

All in all, Ghost World is a particular movie that only particular people will enjoy. But I’d encourage everyone to give it a go so you can find out.

I watched Ghost World on DVD (Music Magpie for £1.50), but it is available to rent on Amazon UK for £2.49.

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