A story of two offbeat teenage girls slouching toward adulthood after high school graduation.
Based on the acclaimed underground comic book of the same name, Ghost World is about the trials and travails of Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson), a couple of out-of-sync teens not quite sure what to do with themselves now that high school's over. The slightly more normal Becky, as she calls herself, wants to move on with life, get a job and rent an apartment, while arty Enid would rather hang out with her new friend Seymour (Steve Buscemi), a fellow misfit and jazz-record collector who's old enough to be her father. At the same time, Enid's stuck in summer school taught by an eccentric teacher (llleana Douglas), dealing with her stepmom, and competing--kind of--with Becky for the attention of their crush Josh (Brad Renfro).
Birch is a natural for this outsider role that requires her to show fearlessness and sarcasm to the rest of the world, yet still ultimately have a sensitive and caring side she'd rather keep hidden. Johannson as her pretty, somewhat saner and eminently matter-of-fact sidekick nicely complements Enid's caustic weirdness--though the girls are complete opposites, you're still convinced their friendship is true. Same goes with Enid and Seymour's connection. With his crooked teeth and dorky ways, Buscemi's record collector is such a loser you feel awfully sorry for him at the same time he kinda grosses you out. Watch for the scenes between Birch and Douglas as her pretentious summer school art teacher--they're pricelessly funny, as are the few scenes with Enid's harried father (Bob Balaban).
Director Terry Zwigoff (whose credits include the hugely praised 1995 documentary Crumb) gets down to basics with these actors to draw out really natural performances, particularly from the two girls. The director also captures the very essence of the characters in their appearance--borderline nerds Enid and Becky are perfect pictures of the typical awkward teen girl who doesn't know where she fits in. Ghost World's magic lies in its details--obscure '20s and '30s jazz and blues tunes; artwork by Daniel Clowes, the real-life creator of the comic book; a sly reference to Crumb; Seymour's joke about getting stabbed. The film is a bit flawed toward the end, when certain things you think probably wouldn't happen really do and the pace slows to a flat and disheartening finish.
Ah, nothing like teenage angst with a bizarro twist.