Ghost World (2001): Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray]

Terry Zwigoff’s adaptation of Daniel Clowe’s iconic coming of age tale “Ghost World” gets its due from Criterion for hardcore fans alike. Criterion tastefully disregards Scarlett Johansson’s mega star status in favor of advertising the essence of the very weird and unusual tale of a young girl learning about growing up and moving on. In one of her finest roles, Thora Birch stars as the odd Enid, a girl with peculiar taste for Bollywood musicals and off beat culture who is experiencing the end of high school with her best friend Rebecca (Johansson). Enid finds solace with her life through her unusual art where she draws colorful locals in her town.

When she realizes Rebecca is ready to get up and move on with her life after school, Enid suddenly comes to the revelation that she has no idea what she wants to do. Even worse, she’s afraid to grow up. Along the way she meets a peculiar loner Seymour who delights in collecting obscure records. The two soon form a bond within their alienation and somewhat similar mid life crises, while Enid tackles various obstacles in her life including self-identity. Zwigoff’s art house drama comedy is the hipster ironic coming of age film before they became such a cultural staple in the mid-aughts, and Thora Birch is quite good in her turn as this truly unlikable protagonist. It’s never quite clear if we’re supposed to empathize with her, but Enid is an awfully irritating and grating central character.

She spends more time berating and belittling others than trying to figure out how to evolve as a person, and even after the fact, she’s unlikable. “Ghost World” finds the character Enid fighting tooth and nail to resist submitting to the doldrums of suburban life and then coming to the realization that she won’t find any new realms or frontiers in her own town. For what it’s worth the performances are great all around, including from Thora Birch who absorbs this character and helps her leap off screen especially when she’s being obnoxious. “Ghost World” is that fractured look at the trappings of suburbia and how some people are woefully stuck in it. While I’ve never cared for the film and have seen so much better films examine this idea and cultural concept, Zwigoff’s film is a classic that warrants at least one viewing.

For the newest edition, Criterion adds a brand new audio commentary featuring director Terry Zwigoff, film producer Lianne Halfon, and Daniel Clowes who created “Ghost World” and co-wrote the film adaptation. It’s a nice and pleasant commentary with the trio discussing the film’s more creative elements. There’s a forty two minute documentary entitled “Art as Dialogue” which features new interviews with stars Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, and co-star Illeana Douglas. There’s also an extended except of the weird and wild musical number “Jann Pehechaan Ho” from the Bollywood musical “Gumnaam” from 1965 prominently featured in the opening of the film. It comes with an optional commentary. There are a collection of deleted scenes included, as wlel as alternate bits and outtakes from the film.

There are some extended and deleted scenes with Doug, and some bits of Dave selling his records to a collector. The previous editions had some of these scenes but Zwigoff features more for the fans with this edition. There’s an alternate audio track with an essay written by David Cairns and Stephen C. Horne as narrated by Roshni Dubey, and discusses the influences and reasoning behind the musical number. It’s an added bonus for fans of the musical number. Finally there’s a theatrical trailer. The more material collectibles comes in the form of a booklet with photos and packed with liners notes, and an essay by critic Howard Hampton, a 2001 piece by Zwigoff about the film’s soundtrack. There’s a second booklet made to look like Clowes’ comic book “Eightball,” featuring an excerpt from Clowes’s original graphic novel “Ghost World” that revolves around a garage sale at Enid’s house. There’s also a novelty “Where are they now?” for Enid and Rebecca.