Terry Zwigoff’s first fiction film, adapted from a cult-classic comic by Daniel Clowes, is an idiosyncratic portrait of adolescent alienation that’s at once bleakly comic and wholly endearing. Set during the malaise-filled months following high-school graduation, Ghost World follows the proud misfit Enid (Thora Birch), who confronts an uncertain future amid the cultural wasteland of consumerist suburbia. As her cynicism becomes too much to bear even for her best friend, Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson), Enid finds herself drawn to an unlikely kindred spirit: a sad-sack record collector many years her senior (Steve Buscemi). With its parade of oddball characters, quotable, Oscar-nominated script, and eclectic soundtrack of vintage obscurities, Ghost World is one of the twenty-first century’s most fiercely beloved comedies.
Back in 2001, little did we know about the connectivity our lives would take with the boom of social media and gathering information faster and even meeting new and exciting people. With the use of social media and the internet with tons of forums and groups that talk about anything and everything , ranging from the latest Star Wars character to a Larping society in the midwest, it's hard to feel alone in this world or be considered weird or abnormal.
In fact, I'd say that weird or geeky is the new normal nowadays. But back in 2001, before all of these social media sites existed, us socially awkward people were left in coffee shops, comic books stores, or hard-to-find record boutiques, quietly sifting through items that we deemed amazing and therefore considered ourselves above it all, while we snarked at the common commuters around us. Now we have won the day and our nerdy obsessions are the mainstream and we have a voice on every outlet imaginable.
That's where Terry Zwigoff's (Bad Santa) adaptation of Daniel Clowes' comic book Ghost World comes into play. Here we have two teenagers who are fresh out of high school, Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson), who are the social outcasts and love to heavily snark on everyone and everything they come into contact with. Their wardrobe consists of comic book and movie t-shirts, and hand crafted or secondhand knitted items that are considered retro and cool nowadays, but not 17 years ago. Enid leads the duo here as she tries to figure out the world and those around her, but always ends up hating everything.
Rebecca is the same way, but figures out that you have to contribute to society in order to have decent things, like a place over your head and food. The girls find it funny to prank a guy in his mid-30s named Seymour (Steve Buscemi), when they see his personal ad to reconnect with a woman from his past in the newspaper. They mock his look and actions, but when Enid meets him in person and realizes he's a great, smart, and like-minded soul to her, she has second thoughts and begins to fall for him. Not to mention, he has an amazing record collection.
As Enid spends more time with Seymour, the relationship between Rebecca and Enid falls apart, leading the two best friends on separate paths, where Enid tries to find meaning to it all without sabotaging herself. Zwigoff and Clowes wrote the screenplay together and have perfectly fit that iconic dry and witty humor into every nook and cranny of this film by relaying what we all thought or did growing up in these turbulent years of being a teenager. Even though there are no social media posts or smart phones, the film seems timeless, and might be more relevant today than it was back in 2001.
Birch and Johansson are quite good in these roles as Enid and Rebecca. They give a pureness to these characters in their later teenage angst years that plays very sarcastically, yet true. It's so much fun to watch these two joke about the people they come in contact with, because I'm sure we've all done it before. Of course, Buscemi is next level here and just owns Seymour with the right amount of heart and soul. With the amazing opening scene of the film that is unforgettable and an ending that we are still talking about to this day, Ghost World still holds up and is one of the finer comic book films ever made. It even was the first comic book film to be nominated for an Oscar.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Ghost World comes with a 50GB Blu-ray Disc from Criterion and is Region A Locked. There is a Criterion booklet with an essay by Howard Hampton, along with information on the crew and technical information on the film. There is also a mini comic book included as well. The disc is housed in a hard clear, plastic case with spine #872.
Ghost World comes with an impressive 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. According to the Criterion booklet, this is a new digital transfer that was created in 4K resolution from a 35mm interpositive. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, and warps were manually removed here. This new transfer looks simply gorgeous with brighter colors and more vivid textures in the detail.
The colors are well balanced and pop off screen, particularly in well lit scenes in both exteriors and interiors. Primary colors are striking throughout in both closeups and wider shots. The bright colored costumes of orange, blue, and green all look amazing and pop right off screen, as do the city sights of Los Angeles. Detail is sharp as well that reveal great closeups of makeup blemishes and individual hairs quite nicely.
The fun knitted clothing the two girls wear show every stitch and knit nicely as does the background items and buildings in the city showing their imperfections. Black levels are deep and inky and the skin tones are always natural. There were no issues with any aliasing, banding, or other video noise, leaving this video presentation with great marks.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix and sounds great. According to the Criterion booklet, the 5.1 surround soundtrack was remastered from the 35mm magnetic track, where clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed. This audio mix is very good, but don't expect a lively action track with tons of explosions of hordes of zombie growls. That's not in the cards with this film, even though you can technically categorize this as a comic book movie.
This is more of a dialogue driven film with excellent music selections throughout. Dialogue is crystal clear and easy to follow and free of any issues. The music is the real spotlight here that brings a great low end and sound to the surround speakers. Ambient noises and sound effects are robust as well and all sound realistic. Again though, the music of the film is the shining star here and brings the track full force.
Audio Commentary - This commentary track was recorded in 2017, specifically for this release and has director Terry Zwigoff, producer Lianne Halfon, and comic creator Daniel Clowes talking about the film. They all touch upon making the movie, shooting on location, casting, the music, and how well the film was received and lives on today. This is an excellent listen.
Art as Dialogue (HD, 42 Mins.) - This is a brand new extra made for this release that has interviews with Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, and Illeana Douglass talking about working on the film. They talk about how they came aboard, working with Zwigoff, the costumes, and much more. This is a great extra.
Jaan Pehechaah Ho (HD, 6 Mins.) - The opening of the film features the iconic scene from the 1965 Bollywood film Gumnaam with the song Jaan Pehechaah Ho. This is the scene in it's entirety with optional commentary. I'm so glad they included this here.
Deleted Scenes (HD, 10 Mins.) - There are nine deleted scenes in total, all of which are worth watching, but doesn't add anything of great value to the final product.
Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2 Mins.) - Trailer for the film.
Criterion Booklet - Here is a fully illustrated Criterion Booklet with images and illustrations from the movie, along with cast and crew informations, tech specs, and an essay by Howard Hampton.
Mini Comic Book - A mini comic book is included here of Eightball/Ghost World.
Ghost World was one of those films that will remain timeless. The characters, music, dialogue, and writing are all top notch here that will always make you smile and think back to this oddball and quirky movie and its characters. Seeing it again after all these years made me fall in love with it all over again. Criterion has knocked the video and audio presentations out of the park once again and the extras are all worth your time. The film still holds up after sixteen years, and comes Highly Recommended!