Ghost World (2001)
Terry Zwigoff: Crumb
You would think a film with more fuck youís and raised middle fingers than Breakfast Club at Tarantino's would be an instant classic. Boo. Ghost World was good, but not great. It has problems. The movie is too hung up with the shallow not shallow thing that was so important back in high school. Iíve moved on, but I donít think this film has.* Okay, that's not true. I haven't moved on. But neither has this film. I don't need the moralizing like I donít need President Bush telling me what Ďevilí is. I already know what evil is. It's George Lucas. Look, if Iím watching the damn movie, if I'm living in the United States, I obviously already agree. Shallow people suck, terrorism is bad, kill/save the whales, bla bla bla. Tell me something new. Anyway, the film, like Pynchon, has too much hostility. The part where the man in the Blockbuster goes Michael Douglas on the fifteen year old clerk for not having seen Felliniís 8 Ĺ is ludicrous. I hadnít seen 8 Ĺ either when I was fifteen. Poor kid, just trying to earn some money on his summer break. The film spends a lot of time trying to score satirical points, at the expense of simply developing an artistic vision, which I know Zwigoff has, because he told me. And don't tell me it's just showing and not taking a position. The film is obviously taking a position, and we're meant to agree with it.
Some of the characters were too inconsistent. This is fine for Thora, since her tumultuous growing-up thing is kind of like, the main theme of the film. But it's not fine for the other characters. For example, the art teacher suddenly goes from complete idiot to art defender and recognizer of talent, and then back to complete idiot. Too much. I'm just kidding, that art teacher was so real. I mean, I knew an art teacher in high school who was just like that. I mean exactly like that. Couldn't possibly have been more like that. What sheer insight of the film to have such a true to life character. Oh wait, no, I'm just kidding again. That character was bullshit. Anyway, that sub-story should have just ended with the art teacher not getting it, or something else, but not how it did. Thoraís cute little friend, who looks like that kid from Third Rock when he was twelve, was also not believable. Their friendship wouldnít have made it past the seventh grade if that. Lastly, save the magic for Harry Potter and Cocoon. I mean, magic is fine, but it's out of place in this movie, Terry.
But the film does have several moments of pure pleasure, and earns at least a perfunctory comparison to Rushmore. It reminded me of Rushmore in a 'new sincerity' sort of way. Their convenience store friend was comforting as a younger version of Silent Bob with wisdom beyong his clothing. Also straight out of Clerks was the hilarious Ďyou talking to meí guy. Straight out of New Jersey. The art school scenes had some funny moments, but that whole sub-plot definitely crouched and tigered a bit too long. There were also a lot of good details and the music was enjoyable. The blues in the middle and especially the opening Indian (as in sub-continent) rock thing was great. I must, in the interest of being annoying, point out that Seymour, who didnít collect foreign music, seemed fairly enthralled with Lionel Belasco, who was from Trinidad, which, I believe, is a foreign country. We can ask John Ashcroft if we're not sure. More obnoxious commentary: the girl walking/thinking music was probably a reworking of some of the music in Barry Lyndon.**
Terry Zwigoff has a lot of potential, and with the right material, could really make a great film. Wait, he already has. In 1995, he made Crumb, a documentary about the late underground cartoonist, Robert Crumb. Crumb was great.
* Note, as I will posit later in the review for Amelie, it doesn't matter what your message is (how simple, how unoriginal, maybe even how utterly wrong) if the execution is good enough.
** Fact checking is for sucks.