As the opening credits flash on the screen, Ghost World is already hurtling forward, appropriating a brassy Bollywood tune and setting Thora Birch to dancing. Her shimmying interpretation of the choreographed Hindi number she’s watching on TV is simultaneously smug and exuberant – this girl carries herself with the cocky adolescent air of a kid who knows what’s cool.
In the first scene of American Beauty, a teenaged girl describes her father in blunt terms as an incurable lecher who pines after her fetching high-school friends. Her boyfriend offers to kill him. In the second scene, dad is heard in voiceover, describing his life in suburbia — a life that, he explains, ended at the age of 42, making the entire film a flashback to the events leading up to his death.