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Terry Zwigoff
Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, Steve Buscemi
Writing Credits:
Terry Zwigoff, Daniel Clowes

With only the plan of moving in together after high school, two unusually devious friends seek direction in life. As a mere gag, they respond to a man's newspaper ad for a date, only to find it will greatly complicate their lives.

Box Office:
$7 million.
Opening Weekend:
$98,791 on 5 Screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 111 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 5/30/2017

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Terry Zwigoff, Creator/Writer Daniel Clowes and Producer Lianne Halfon
• “Art As Dialogue” Documentary
• Deleted Scenes
Gumnaam Excerpt
• Trailer
• Booklet


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 12, 2017)

One won’t need much time if one attends a festival devoted to feature films made by Terry Zwigoff, as the director’s career spans only three movies of that sort. After a couple of earlier documentaries, Zwigoff leapt to fictional narratives with 2001’s Ghost World.

Best friends Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) and Enid (Thora Birch) graduate from high school. Now officially adults, they intend to enact their long-established plan to move in together.

They also want to skip college, so they need to find work. While Rebecca finds consistent employment at a coffee shop, Enid’s quirks make it more difficult for her to keep a job.

The girls also lack much empathy, so they decide to play a cruel prank. After middle-aged Seymour (Steve Buscemi) runs a personal ad in hopes that he’ll hear from a woman he briefly met, Enid replies and pretends to be this person. This launches into a surprising set of circumstances and life experiences for the girls.

As I mentioned at the start, Terry Zwigoff’s career as a narrative filmmaker spanned a mere three movies, and until Ghost World plopped into my Blu-ray player, I’d only seen 2003’s Bad Santa.

That experience prepared me fairly well for World, as both enjoy misanthropic lead characters who become more open to humanity as the stories progress – in their cynical ways, at least. Given its sex, profanity and substance abuse, Santa went with a more hedonistic adventure, but I still think both movies come with somewhat similar worldviews.

I also feel World reminds me of another teen “coming of age” tale: 2007’s Juno. In particular, both start out with a primary emphasis on comedy but they become more dramatic as they progress.

Of the two, World feels a little more contrived. Yeah, the hyper-hipster dialogue of Juno never seemed realistic, but it largely stayed relatable, whereas World engages in stereotypes and parody to degree that keep it at arm’s length much of the time.

Again, this seems more true during the broader, more comedic first half of the film. During those portions, the characters feel like stereotypes, and we get tremendously broad roles such as Doug (Dave Sheridan), the mullet-haired shirtless lunkhead who parties in the convenience store parking lot.

These elements dissipate somewhat as the movie progresses – they’re still there, but they don’t dominate, and World manages to humanize its leads. In particular, Enid goes on a journey, though the ever-cynical Zwigoff avoids the typical sappy-happy ending. I won’t spoil anything, of course, but the film lacks pat solutions, and I appreciate that.

I also like the fact that it casts the mirror back on itself to a large degree. Parts of World - like Doug or like Blueshammer, the terrible “authentic” blues band we see – mock the tackiness and cheesiness of the pop world, but the movie also assails the more pretentious and “cultured” among us.

This means that it treats snobs like Seymour and Enid’s art teacher (Illeana Douglas) with the same comedic disdain as the “common folk”. Enid and Rebecca get a little of this as well, so the movie spreads its snark across the board.

I appreciate that World stabs its subjects in some fairly subtle ways. For instance, at one point Enid mocks Seymour because she thinks he orders a large glass of milk – because she’s too oblivious to realize he got a vanilla milkshake. (And hats off to the Pulp Fiction reference there!)

Ghost World maintains enough of an off-putting tone that it probably won’t be for everyone, but I think it works. Even with some inconsistencies, the film brings us an incisive, witty take on its subject matter.

Footnote: stick around through the end credits for an amusing outtake.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio C+/ Bonus B

Ghost World appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. I felt pleased with this strong transfer.

Sharpness looked nice, as the movie displayed very little softness. Some darker shots could be a little undefined, but most of the film offered nice clarity. The movie showed no jaggies or moiré effects, and it lacked both edge haloes and print flaws.

In terms of colors, World leaned toward a somewhat blue palette, but the hues still managed a fair amount of range. The tones came across with nice vivacity and accuracy. Blacks were dark and dense, while shadows showed positive smoothness. Everything about the image satisfied.

Although I didn’t expect much from the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, its one-dimensional soundscape still seemed underwhelming. Music became the main factor, and the various songs managed to use the speakers in a fairly broad manner.

Effects offered less involvement, though. Those elements occasionally broadened to the side/rear channels, but often the mix seemed to be virtually monaural. Given the movie’s chatty nature, this wasn’t a problem, but it still left us with a lackluster soundfield.

Audio quality worked fine. Music varied dependent on the source, but the songs usually brought out fairly good range.

Dialogue remained concise and natural, and effects seemed satisfactory. As noted, these had little to do, but these elements appeared accurate enough. All of this added up to a mediocre soundtrack.

The Criterion release comes with a mix of extras, and we open with an audio commentary from writer/director Terry Zwigoff, creator/writer Daniel Clowes and producer Lianne Halfon. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific look at the source comic and its adaptation, music, sets and locations, cast and performances, costumes and design, editing and related topics.

Overall, this becomes a good but not great commentary. While the track gets into a fair array of domains and always remains engaging, it just lacks the depth to get to a higher level. Still, it’s an informative discussion that merits a listen.

A new documentary called Art As Dialogue runs 41 minutes, 37 seconds and includes remarks from actors Illeana Douglas, Scarlett Johansson, and Thora Birch. They discuss characters and their performances, working with Zwigoff, the movie’s themes and impact, costumes, hair and production design.

The focus solely on the actors surprises me, as I expected a broader range of participants. “Art” works well anyway, as it offers a program with more depth and substance than usual. The three actors bring us a lot of insights in this informative piece.

Nine Deleted Scenes fill a total of nine minutes, 31 seconds. Most of these offer wholly inconsequential sequences, such as more of the battle between Doug and the convenience sore manager or Seymour and a record collector. We also get minor additions to existing segments, and these seem pleasant but not meaningful.

The only exception comes from a new scene in which Enid and Josh have sex. While interesting on the surface, I’m glad it didn’t make the film – it feels too sappy and comes across like something from a different movie.

Seen at the film’s start, we find an excerpt from Gumnaam. This five-minute, 42-second lets us see the piece featured at the start of Ghost World all on its own. That makes it a moderately interesting curiosity.

We can watch the excerpt with or without commentary. Narrator Roshini Dubey tells us about the 1965 Indian film from which the segment comes. The track provides some good details.

In addition to the movie’s trailer, the set finishes with a booklet. It includes an essay from critic Howard Hampton, a piece from Zwigoff that discusses the film’s music, and excerpts from the original comic. The booklet completes things on a positive note.

At times, Ghost World threatens to flaunt its quirks too strongly. However, it offers enough cleverness and character depth to end up as a solid personality exploration. The Blu-ray boasts very good picture quality along with adequate audio and a few informative supplements. Ghost World turns into an engaging effort.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.5 Stars Number of Votes: 6
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