BARD AND BLAND AMERICA: “O” & “GHOST WORLD”
summer ends, two films about teens light up movie screens. Tim
Blake Nelson’s “O” transfers Shakespeare’s “Othello” to an all
white, Southern boarding school, and Terry Zwigoff’s “Ghost World”
reinterprets a renowned comic novel by Daniel Clowes who collaborated
on this film script.
sat on the shelf for more than a year largely due to its unmotivated
but extremely violent ending and post-Columbine sensitivities.
In streamlining Shakespeare’s tale of love, jealousy, deceit and
betrayal for the screen, Blake and screenwriter Brad Kaaya are
not altogether successful. But, strong performances by a talented
cast carry it for a while, as do the exciting basketball sequences.
Odin “O” James (Spike Lee’s “Clockers’” Mekhi Phifer) has it all:
Prowess on the court, popularity, and the dean’s desirable daughter,
Desi (“Save the Last Dance’s” Julia Stiles). His teammate Hugo
(“Pearl Harbor’s” Josh Hartnett) is the son of Coach Duke Goulding
(“West Wing’s” Martin Sheen). Hugo, also a top player, resents
his father’s interest in Odin, and, therefore, sets in motion
Shakespeare’s devious plot to poison Odin’s mind with the suspicion
that Desi is carrying on secretly with another court hotshot,
Michael Casio (Andrew Keegan). To make the play relevant, the
movie also tosses in such topics as rough sex and racism. For
parents and educators, reading the play before seeing this cinematic
interpretation will translate into a good discussion comparing
the two art forms.
World” is the haunting tale of alienated teenage girls. In a nutshell:
Enid (“American Beauty’s” Thora Birch), the main protagonist,
is a cultural descendent of Holden Caufield. She and her best
friend Rebecca (“An American Rhapsody’s” Scarlett Johansson) are
emotionally adrift among the dumbed-down culture of suburbia.
The girls’ wicked joke of answering a pathetic personal ad leads
them to Seymour (the marvelous Steve Buscemi), a thirty-something
frump who interests Enid in the obsessive world of record collecting.
The two girls drift apart when Rebecca chooses conventional independence
and the more eccentric Enid embarks on her own quest to find her
place in a world she clearly questions. (“O,” 91 minutes, released
by Lion’s Gate Films, Rated R; “Ghost World,” 111 minutes, released
by United Artists, Rated R. Call 777-Film for venues.)
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