Friday, 2 July 2010

I can't relate to 99% of humanity

No 266 - Ghost World
Director - Terry Zwigoff

As comic book films become more popular and as every comic book ever becomes a film, it is only natural that the less usual comics become films too. However, I am surprised that this film made it so high up the list, and that the more exciting and daring types of films didn't get onto the list at all - I don't think this film is quite as good as American Splendour for example (though that may stem from a huge admiration of Paul Giamatti).

So, here we have a film which relishes in the fact that not much happens. A film about isolation and a film about growing up. A film, in which the protagonist is really really annoying. For whilst we may follow both Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) - Rebecca kind of fades out of the equation and it is Enid who is the key character in this film. She is also a bit of a twat.

The problem with Enid is that she believes herself to be better than everyone and her superiority manifests itself in a number of horrible ways. Firstly, although she is fascinated with outsiders she seems to get down hearted when things work out for them. She wants other people to be miserable so that she can feel better - her friendships seem to stem from a high level of Schadenfreude. Secondly she is deliberately confrontational. She mocks people with regularity and she starts fights or arguments equally frequently.
Check out her withering asides "He might die of AIDS when he date rapes her".

At the beginning of the film Enid and Rebecca are deliberately alienating themselves from their high school - admiring the weirdos and berating the popular kids from afar. However after graduation, Rebecca begins to assimilate with the real world: saving money, looking for a house, getting a job.
All of this seems alien to Enid who wants to continue to live out life in her little bubble. And so Enid's alienation becomes real - a side effect of her (quite horrible) character, rather than a deliberate part of her superiority.

Enid's descent into isolation also ropes in the film's best characters. Firstly Seymour - played by Steve Buscemi. I've spent the last blog talking about the fact that I think Buscemi is excellent, and I still do. Seymour is just a normal person - a bit nerdy, a bit depressed, but utterly unremarkable. His love for blues and his awkwardness with his friendship with Enid (I think he feels uncomfortable being friends with a 17 year old girl) is wonderful. You kind of hope that things will go well for Seymour. That he will be happy. That he will move away from his weird circle of friends (though it does include the ever-awesome cameo king that is David Cross... oh and his house-mate Kenny from Frasier) and settle down. However, like everyone in the film, his life is made worse by Enid turning up and claiming ownership on Seymour and his emotions. She may claim to love him and that he is her hero, but she still messes him around so much that he ends up even more of a wreck than he used to be.

It is in Enid's art classes that she begins to realise that actually alienation isn't that good - mainly because the art teacher is a bit of a prick and a snob. Her view on what makes art and what isn't allowed (illustrations can't be art) just shows her as this horribly pretentious elitist wanker. When Enid is made to face up to the art teacher (who is, essentially, an even more OTT version of Enid herself) it causes Enid to realise that she needs to be determined and make something of her life.

It also opens up a wonderful sub-plot (the best bit of the film) about the controversial past of Cook's Chicken (a nearby KFC-type restaurant) - which I won't go into, but which brings up issues of acceptability and how far Art can go to push the envelope.

All in all though - the film is as aloof as its protagonists. Which isn't really a good thing.

1 comment:

doug said...

The part about the chicken restaurants is true, for the most part; although they weren't a big chain. There were three Coon Chicken Inns, in Salt Lake City, Seattle, and Portland, from the 1930s to the 1950s, but they didn't morph into another name, they closed when the owner retired (and really, none too soon). You can Google "coon chicken inn" and find out more...

Like your blog, by the way.