Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Movie Week Review #3
The Movie: Ghost World
My Guest Tonight: Anna von Beaverplatz
Jeremy: Anyways, let's start this bitch off so you can see Lost.
How is it that ScarJo got the career and Thora Birch got shit all? The girl was AMAZING.
AVB: I love Thora Birch here as I loved her in American Beauty.. I may have also seen her in The Smokers (although I think I might be thinking of Jawbreaker) and I definitely rented The Hole, which was utterly god-awful, largely because it starred her. I don't know if I can think of it as a shame, though, only because I think it had to do with Thora being more... careful about what she chooses to do than ScarJo, the "hot girl".
Anyway, I love Thora in Ghost World because she takes this essentially unlikable girl and manages to make her (at least a little) a sympathetic character. Enid is too cool for school, both literally and figuratively, but because she's utterly terrified of growing up, so she puts on this hipster facade. Thora gives Enid such a great personality... she gives her all these great little moments where you can see the facade is there to fool herself as much as it is anyone else, and it's not working. There's a moment in the diner when she, Rebecca, and Josh go to watch Seymour get stood up by his "blonde in yellow dress" and he orders a milkshake; she says, "Oh my god, he just ordered a giant glass of milk!" Josh looks at her and snarks, "That's a vanilla milkshake." The look she gets on her face at that moment is so perfect; she realizes she's not fooling her friends, and in turn, in that moment, she can't fool herself. Enid doesn't know how to be a grownup, or even a reasonable facsimile of one; she mimics other's behaviors, but doesn't feel it.. Thora does a beautiful job of conveying that sense of Otherness, of not being comfortable, of being a ghost.
Oops, sorry! That's my pretentious film student side coming out a bit.
Jeremy: Oh don't worry, your film school cred is perfect compliment to my "I have no fucking idea what I'm doing" bit.
I loved Enid, and I thought Thora handed a wonderful portrayal. She's a bit of a bitch, but you love her because for all her snark and wit, she's still trying to figure out where the fuck her life is going. She spends the entire movie watching other people live their lives instead of focusing on hers, so I think it's only fitting that the movie ends with her boarding a bus, having absolutely no idea where she's going.
Steve Buscemi was absolutely incredible to. He's such a loser, and I mean that in that in the best possible way. On the surface, he seems like one of those guys who keeps corpses in the crawlspace of his house, but the more you get into his character, the more you can't help but pull for him.
AVB: Exactly: They're kind of in the same boat. Neither of them has any clue how to go about this life thing. He copes by obsessively collecting stuff; he says as he shows her his record room, "Can't connect with people, so you fill your life with stuff." I loved him in this movie so much. He's like a great character actor: he's in everything and he's always awesome. Like Walken, but a good actor. And I totally agree re: pulling for him. He is, in my mind at least, the most sympathetic character in the film. I related to him much more easily than I did to Enid, who reacted to her surroundings in a very childish way.
Perhaps it's my advanced age; I'm past double Enid's, and around Seymour's, so probably I just understand his desire to find some way to fit in with my surroundings, since I know I'll always feel out of place.. I think that's kind of the point, really- she reacts childishly because she's still just coming off of being a child. I think that's why she tells Seymour how great it would be to just "go off to some random place and disappear".. Doesn't each of us at some point want to run away, and don't we all imagine things would be different if we did? We would somehow be more ...real? More adult? More able to find someone who is like us, who gets us?
Jeremy: I think everyone secretly feels out of place, and that everyone feels like running away and becoming a new person. Not becoming someone else, but more like becoming the person you've always seen yourself as, instead of the person you've become. I think that's more or less what it means to grow up: it's like becoming the person you want to be.
When I picked up Ghost World, a lot of people told me some totally bogus bullshit along the lines of "Oh, if you loved Napoleon Dynamite, you'll love this movie". Which kind of worried me because Napoleon Dynamite was pretty much one of the biggest pieces of shit I had ever seen. If anything, what they should have said was "If you hated Napoleon Dynamite, you are going to fucking love the shit out of this movie". Ghost World was like the Anti-Dynamite. Instead of focusing on bullshit hipster dialogue, it focused on character development and watching as Enid and Seymour grow up and figure out where their life was going. I also doesn't hurt that the dialogue was pure genius. The characters in Ghost World were by far quirkier than Dynamite's, but they were also much better developed. I mean, we can go on and on about how psychologically fucked Enid is, and all we have to go on with Napoleon is "Oh look, he says 'Gosh' and eats Tater Tots. Die."
AVB: Bahahahah! Well, don't fake internet break up with me, but I'm in the minority of people who enjoyed Napolean Dynamite. I saw it as a kind of takeoff on the whole John Hughes milieu, but instead of having all these uber-hip suburbanite kids, it was peopled with their rural/dullard counterparts. I enjoyed the hell out of it in that sense. However, I canNOT even FATHOM how somebody could compare the two in any way, shape, or form. Those people should be murdered to death. Ghost World is an amazing film, and you're absolutely right about the dialogue: genius.
You know, I almost forgot to mention how much I loved Illeana Douglas as the art teacher. She is another actor that I love to see pop up in things. I think she's terrific. And too funny that Teri Garr shows up, uncredited no less.
I love the music, too, the piano-and-strings stuff really made it feel even more lonely. And I totally adore the opening scene, with the Indian movie! I want to watch that movie now, too! And the old blues stuff is great. I love that scene in the bar with "Blueshammer" and how just disgusted Seymour gets. "We're gonna give you some deep delta blues!" Ugh. I was disgusted right along with him.
Jeremy: Oh God, you actually LIKED Napoleon Dynamite? I think we need to take a fake internet break, sug. I just hated it because it focused more on stupid catch phrases than it did on characters or plot.
Although the Art Teacher? Loved her. She was a nice critique on how you could take a shit on a paper plate, but as long as you slapped some heavy-handed message on it, it's ART.
Anyways, back on topic, (since I know Lost starts soon and I wanna rap this up before it comes on). One of the things I loved about the movie was that it was just so bare bones. It's a small movie that takes place in a small town, and it doesn't try to hide the mundanity of the setting. What makes this a great movie is that it never takes the focus off what really matters here, which is the characters. They're complete social inepts, but it's all about them finally coming to grips with the fact that yes, they are adults now, and one of the parts of being an adult is figuring out what exactly the fuck that means to you. In that respect, Ghost World is the quintessential coming of age story, whether your a recent high school graduate or a forty-year old with a bitchin' record collection and no social life. Anything you want to add before you run off to catch Lost?
AVB: I'm going to totally agree with you on the mundane small town setting. That is almost a character in itself, and works to underscore the whole feeling of "oh, god, what am I going to do with my life?" that everyone has at some point. I like that they deal with that in different ways, with Seymour going to therapy to learn to be comfortable in his own skin, and Enid running away to try to find someplace she's comfortable in hers.
Anything I want to add? Honey, I could write a 20-page paper about this movie. But, Lost is coming on soon, so I'll just reiterate that I love this movie. I love movies that make me feel lonely, because they also make me remember that other people feel the same way, which makes me feel less lonely. I'm a woman of contradictions, what can I say? Hence my love for both good movies and utter crap. I like to think it makes me a well-rounded individual. Rather than a crazy person with no taste.
Jeremy: We'll work on the 20-page paper next movie week! Thanks for your time, AVB!
AVB: Aw, thanks for inviting me! I had fun. I know I'm no Sarah Larson, but I hope you did too!