IGBY GOES DOWN
Writer/Director Burr Steer
Review Sam North
and refreshing black comedy
Starring Kieran Culkin, Ryan Phillipe, Susan Sarandon Don, Clare
Danes, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Amanda Peet.
Finally, a movie
that reflects the cynicism that we all feel about this century. Igby
Goes Down by Burr Steer has been slow to emerge from the studio vaults
but is well worth the wait and it is as refreshing as the day Harold
and Maude came out to shock the 1970s.
Witty, literate and targeting the rich dysfunctional Washington family
of the Slocomes, we are in Royal Tennenbaum territory. This is a family
based upon bitterness, disappointment, revenge and at the centre of
it is Kieran Culkins wonderfully sarcastic Igby, the young brother
who just cant live up to the family standards. Nor could his father,
who was checked into the house for the insane. Igby is sharper than
most satires about family life and Clare Danes has finally an opportunity
to shine as the girl both brothers share. Ryan Phillipe reprises his
aloof, distant cold-hearted preppy role that he is so good at and Susan
Sarandon as the selfish, substance abusing; tyrannical caring
mother is perfectly cast.
The family story begins with Iby and his brother trying to kill their
mother and then the journey to this moment told in flashback. Kierans
Igby is played by Rory Caulkin in his earlier version. (Is their no
end to Caulkins?) It is not a happy story. But you do get to understand
how a young might end up so jaundiced.
The title comesfrom an episode of institualised bullying at Military
school, but could equally be taken from his descent into the hell of
his own making in the big bad city.
Jeff Goldblum reinvents himself as the rich, property magnate who flaunts
his mistresses and is Igbys godfather. He has rules, break them
and youll find out what they are. There is a nasty moment when
Igby finds out the rules and it centres around the mistress played by
Amanda Peet, who allows Igby to crash at her place when he refuses to
go to College (after being escaping from Military School.)
This is a film about Igby growing up his is not yet 18, and it
is a portrait of the sheer malevolence families can inflict upon one
another. Yet it is always witty, Igbys sarcasm is literate and
perfectly natural, unlike Clare Danes laughter a momentary scene
Amanda Peet as the disintegrating junkie turns in a fine performance,
as does weak, hapless Bill Pullman as the father, who just cant
take the pressure.
Igby and his brother loathe each other with believable indifference
and its worse for Igby because his brother is, of course, a straight
A student whilst he is a miserable failure.
Igby in New York endures humiliation after humiliation, but he seems
to survive and even when his brother steals his girlfriend, he somehow
pulls through. Not without much anquish and pain.
This is Burr Steers first feature film and bodes well for future work.
He has good contacts with his uncredited relative Gore Vidal popping
up as a headmaster earlier in the film.
Will Igby survive? I hope so. I for one would love to see a sequel.
Ibgy Goes Down is a clever and refreshing black comedy and make a point
of taking your mother when you go.
© Sam North Ocotber 12 2002
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