Revenge Of The Nerds

Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) hate everyone, except for the people everyone else hates. They've just graduated from high school and are forgoing college in order to concentrate full time on rolling their eyes and making withering comments. Early in Terry Zwigoff's "Ghost World," Enid and Rebecca read a personal ad from a man trying to track down a blonde he thinks he had a "moment" with. They think it'd be hilarious to call the guy, pretend to be the blonde--"Oh, we totally have to"--and then watch him sit for hours in some diner waiting for a rendezvous. It turns out that the man is named Seymour (Steve Buscemi), and he's a sad case: a total misfit, an obsessive collector of blues 78s, a guy who hasn't had a date in years. Enid is touched and befriends him. "In a way, he's such a clueless dork," she says, "he's actually kind of cool."

"Ghost World," based on the comic book by Daniel Clowes, is a funny, deadpan tribute to adolescence, to improbable friendships and to beautiful and not-so-beautiful losers. Zwigoff previously directed "Crumb," and he's still transfixed by how weird and moving life can be. Illeana Douglas is a riot as Enid's nutso-provocateur art teacher. Buscemi is a wonderfully nuanced outsider. And Birch, from "American Beauty," gives a terrific performance that's equal parts bitchiness and longing. In the hearts of losers, Zwigoff's found a real winner.

Ghost WorldUnited Artists
Aug. 3