I decided to revisit Ghost World with the mind set of “I should rewatch this movie because it’s so beloved and I need to understand why I never connected to it.” As I began watching I realized, is this movie beloved? I’m not questioning because it’s bad, in fact I found the film a dark, realistic portrayal of how cruel and unforgiving a high school girl can be. For that same reason is why I don’t think the movie is as warmly remembered because it’s uncomfortable to watch. You can cheer for Molly Ringwald kissing Jake Ryan or Laney Boggs getting nominated for prom queen but a teenager that actively fucks with people for her own enjoyment is unsettling.
Enid (Thora Birch) is an amazing anti-hero. She is so selfish and self centered to where she treats her friends and father like crap and only values Seymour (Steve Buscemi) out of pity and her ability to manipulate him yet underneath it all comes from her fear of growing up and facing the future. You have a love/hate relationship with her as you’re rooting for her to not ruin every relationship in her life but she’s so self destructive. You stay invested for characters like Seymour who is a sweet, unassuming man who doesn’t realize what he’s getting into when he meets the blunt teen. The film is interested in focusing on all the weirdos of this unnamed town, Enid and Seymour included. Enid thinks she’s better than everyone else but by the end realizes she’s not more normal than the man who waits for the nonexistent bus everyday.
For such a dour film in it’s themes, it’s presented in such a flourish of color with the locations such as the faux 50’s diner and local sex shop to the broadly drawn townspeople like the shirtless redneck hanging around the convenient store to the pretentious high school art teacher. The film pops with it’s imagery in contrast to its sad real life problems Enid is setting into motion. Much like her artwork, we see she’s got the talent but doesn’t know how to put it to good use and instead uses it to humiliate others.
Ghost World reminded me of the recent film also based off of a graphic novel The Diary of a Teenage Girl where a young girl starts an inappropriate relationship with an older man. Both are about artists and who are in a rough patch of growing up. Minnie (Bel Powley) has more innocence while Enid has already become jaded with her life but each are coming of age where we see these girls being forced to learn harsh lessons in life and love. Ghost World brings a strange yet familiar setting of the people who inhabit our lives that we may not pay attention to. It’s fun seeing the world from Enid’s eyes, if only she wasn’t the worst.