The summer of 2001 started off big, with a bunch of the usual brain-dead hits (The Mummy Returns, Shrek, Lara Croft Tomb Raider, The Fast an the Furious), some brain-dead duds (Pearl Harbor, The Animal, Planet of the Apes), one great thing, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, and some genuine oddball things like A Knight's Tale. In the midst of all this bigness came Terry Zwigoff's Ghost World, which not only had the nerve to be small, but it had an attitude big enough to stand up to all that bluster.
Director Zwigoff made his feature debut after two documentaries, and he found a perfect way to meld his wry sensibility to Daniel Clowes' comic book. In the first ten minutes of the film, we see the clashing of things that are very definitely annoying, like the high school graduation, its speeches, the after-party, and the awkward attempts at conversation. Then we get the things that are so peculiar that they're cool, like the Bollywood musical number "Jaan Pehechaan Ho" and the Satanists in the '50s diner. Then we have the graduation band, wherein the girls can't quite decide: "this is so bad it's almost good," says Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson). "This is so bad it's gone past good and back to bad again," quips Enid (Thora Birch).
This type of thing makes the movie both funny and cool, but what makes it great is the heartbreaking deterioration of the friendship between the two girls. Rebecca has decided to get some responsibility in her life, and Enid has become interested in another "so bad he's good" outsider, Seymour (Steve Buscemi). They may have once had in common the need to make fun of life, but eventually life does its own thing and you find yourself connected to other people. And that's pretty cool too.