Coming at a time riddled with soulless retreads of tired material, Ghost World is a true original, a film blissfully unafraid to make even the most mundane events of life seem dazzling and revitalizing. Terry Zwigoff's masterful, note-perfect adaptation of the popular graphic novel by Daniel Clowes is such an unmitigated success because it understands the difficult tone of post-adolescence and throws all of its uncertainty, eerieness, and beauty together in one glorious package. In a model example of how to do everything right with offbeat source material, Zwigoff employs the deeper understanding of human beings he displayed in his remarkable 1995 documentary Crumb, perhaps to an even more blazingly original extent. The film is stocked with scenes that never overstep their boundaries or give false impressions. Part of the credit goes to the film's unforgettable performances: Thora Birch makes the post-high school travails of her character truly indelible, presenting one of the most rewarding personifications of teenage life seen at the movies in a long time. As the unlikely object of her misplaced affections, Steve Buscemi is equally terrific, giving us a character rarely seen in movies anymore but immediately identifiable in real life: the past-his-prime, self-proclaimed "nerd" unable to relate to his surroundings. Rather than employing the glib, phony veneer of most recent films about teenagers, Ghost World allows its characters to act like real people, refusing to buckle them down into a safe, conventional scenario. The result is nearly breathtaking in its authenticity -- Ghost World could not have arrived at a better time.