The film adaptation of Ghost World was written by original comic artist Daniel Clowes (of Eightball fame) and director Terry Zwigoff (of Crumb fame). The movie stars Thora Birch in the lead role of Enid, Scarlett Johansson Enid's best friend Rebecca, and Steve Buscemi as the awkward record collector Seymour. There are smaller parts by a number of well known and upcoming actors: Illeana Douglas, Brad Renfro, Teri Garr.

The movie is the first nondocumentary feature by Zwigoff, and he clearly approaches it with the same tenderness that made the original comic work. The film has a little more direction and plot than the comic, which was pretty aimless, but both incarnations are less about events than they are about people.

Zwigoff and Clowes populate the world of these characters with bits and pieces of themselves. Props and characters are drawn from their homes and families rather than a Hollywood prop department. The influence of R. Crumb, and his friendship with the two men is unmistakable -- Seymour's collection of blues and ragtime 78s, Enid's sketch book (which contains drawings by Crumb's daugther Sophie), and the brief appearance of an album of Crumb's ragtime recordings ("Is this any good?" "No.") -- are a testament to that.

While I would probably call this movie a comedy, it has its black moments. Enid and Becca exist in an uncomfortable limbo between high school and the rest of their lives. They haven't grown up yet and they aren't quite sure they want to. They make us uncomfortable. Sometimes they remind us of ourselves in ways we don't want to be reminded. They know they are supposed to be best friends but they aren't sure what to do when they don't feel like being friends. They don't know what they want and they're not sure how to ask for it. And that honesty with the audience is ultimately what makes this movie better than typical Hollywood accounts of the cool outsider underdog.

Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson do a good job in the lead roles, though I feel that this is probably due more to an excellent script and direction than their acting. Steve Buscemi is better than I have seen him for a long time -- he has played similar roles to this one many times before, but he manages, despite initial appearances, to go past the parody of that character -- which he can sometimes fall into -- and create a figure who is far more human than his usual effort.

I recommend both the comic and the film.