It’s a new month and there’s a new holiday to celebrate: Thanksgiving! I will admit that I am at the moment of typing this wearing a Christmas t-shirt that says “Don’t Stop Believing” and a pair of skull earrings. There just aren’t that many Thanksgiving fashion choices, turkeys! But one way I can celebrate this month is with a focus on cinematic comfort food. All the movies featured here in November will be movies I am thankful for. Or is it grateful? Maybe both. These are films I find to be wholesome, because of the way they make me feel. Oh yes, and I just remembered that it was a year ago today that I had a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction, so happy first birthday to the pair of boobs that didn’t try to kill me. I’m feeling grateful just to be here, even if “chemo brain” does linger. I might be a little less sharp than I was, but I’m alive.
Ghost World is a slice-of-life comedy, the story of a summer in the lives of two best friends who are misanthropes, to put it elegantly. Enid and Rebecca are at odds with everyone except each other, it seems, and they finish their graduation ceremony by flipping the whole school a superbird and walking away. But when Enid has to complete a remedial art class in order to officially graduate, it puts a damper on Rebecca’s plans for the two of them to get their own apartment. This is exacerbated when Rebecca finds that she is able to resist the urge to poison everyone with words so she can work a steady job, while Enid just can’t handle the pressures of the whole world being so damn stupid all the time. And when Enid meets a new friend named Seymour in an unusual way, it might tear apart her friendship with Rebecca.
I know that was an awkward description of the plot, but if you’ve seen this movie you know how much is going on visually as well as in terms of dialogue, and it’s one of those things that is not easily summed up because you could keep going and going until you tell everything that happens. It’s infinitely watchable, at least for me, as both an introvert and a huge fan of snarky humor. I’ve long since given up feeling guilty for still identifying so strongly with Enid at my age. Heck, I was 26 years old when the movie came out, already too old to be an aloof teenager, but some part of everyone never grows out of that kind of me-against-the-world ironic humor, if we’re lucky. It’s soothing, when I watch Ghost World, to feel that I’m not alone in realizing how ridiculous life can be. I honestly believe movies like this help with the pursuit of mindfulness, as they provide an outlet for certain emotions like frustration. Dark comedies walk one further along the path to noticing such emotions when they occur in life, but letting them pass without giving in completely. I hope that makes sense. I’ve been trying all day to put it into words in my mind.
Two things I noticed today that I never caught onto before: when Enid and Seymour go to the adult bookstore, there is a sign on the front that says “Have An Adult Day.” No one in this movie is an adult. Not the art teacher who is angry with her father but then has him finance her terrible student film, not the convenience store owner who can’t get over his grievances with trashy customer Doug, not Seymour’s new girlfriend Dana who is too envious to let him continue to hang out with Enid, and not Enid’s dad and ex-girlfriend, who are trying to relive an old relationship that must have come to a natural end in the past. Secondly, I believe that Rebecca and Enid represent the inner child and the outer adult of the same person, which explains the end of the film. I think that Enid chooses to mature, but her mind still takes off to where no one knows what she’s thinking. You learn to keep some opinions private if you want to function. (I’m still working on this part, and I’m about to turn 45, but I’m better enough at it compared to where I was in 2001 that I might as well be a completely different person.)
If the plot doesn’t interest you, the cast might. Bob Balaban, Teri Garr, Brad Renfro, Illeana Douglas, Pat Healy, David Cross, and of course, Steve Buscemi as Seymour all make this an ensemble backing up stars Scarlett Johannson and Thora Birch. There is music both wonderful and awful, mostly awful, but the awful songs are for laughs. And the quotable lines never end, so I won’t even start quoting. I think it is worth noting that in my experience, back in 2001, people were not as likely to express out loud the opinions the Ghost World inhabitants do; however, the wit in this movie as opposed to say, angry YouTube comments made this afternoon, still holds up. Recommended for those still in touch with their inner adolescent, which is probably everyone reading this.