Igby Goes Down (2002)
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Review Date: August 31, 2002
Director: Burr Steers
Writer: Burr Steers
Producers: Marco Weber, Lisa Tornell
Kieran Culkin as Igby Slocumb
Susan Sarandon as Mimi Slocumb
Ryan Phillippe as Oliver Slocumb
A rich kid with a messed up dad and a drugged up mom gets kicked out of one too many schools until one day, he's given a job in New York City by a really rich guy who's banging his mom on the side. This newfound opportunity allows the young chap to encounter a number of peculiar people on his way to "finding himself". Culkin: Phase Two...ensues.
One of the things that I like best about watching so many movies is that every now and again, generally when I least expect it, a film will come out of nowhere, sweep me into its world of characters and take me on a very groovy ride. IGBY GOES DOWN is just that kind of movie and I'm happy to report that I not only enjoyed it on various levels, particularly the comedic and dramatic, but I also loved pretty much every single character drawn out in the picture. Lead actor Kieran Culkin should be particularly applauded for his outstanding portrayal of an off-beat angst-ridden teen who just can't seem to get a handle on life. Culkin previously displayed notable talent in another "coming of age" pic earlier this year entitled THE DANGEROUS LIVES OF ALTAR BOYS, and seems poised to take over the Robert Downey Jr. mantle for his generation (just do us all a favor and stay away from the nose-candy, daddy-o). If Lester Burnham had a son...he would likely be as fucked up as this kid! The film is also packed with great dialogue, fun exchanges, lively characters, an awesome soundtrack, emotions, laughs, cries, surprises...pretty much everything you'd want out of a quirky drama...and more! And I don't mean just another peek at Amanda Peet's "peets" (thanks babe!), I mean a very impressive balance of laughs and drama, with a very light, fun vibe starting things off, and a more mature MAGNOLIA-esque environment closing things up. Kudos to first-time writer/director Burr Steers for creating such a meticulous film which, in my opinion, doesn't waste any one scene or line. The script contains many sharp insights and deep undertones, and a handful of scenes have already made their way into my "memorable movie moments" repertoire. The Bill Pullman "shower scene" is one that is particularly stirring.

And if all that wasn't enough, the film kickstarts the festivities off with various "quirky" characters, but ultimately develops them into three-dimensional human beings who you learn to appreciate and emphasize with by the end. Yes, the film is specifically about Igby's journey from teen to responsible "adult", but along the way, we are also given peeks inside the lives of an assortment of engaging characters and most of them pack a wallop as well. Susan Sarandon has a lot of fun with her character, but also doesn't exaggerate her to the point of being just "one big joke". There's a deeper hurt there. Jeff Goldblum is a blast to watch as the super-rich guy who handles all of his problems with a flick of the wrist and a hundred little Benjamins. Ryan Phillippe also starts off a little CRUEL INTENTIONS-ish, but ultimately gives us a lot more than just a pretty little face. Amanda Peet is gorgeous as usual, but like most of the other characters in the movie, provides for lots of spunk and ultimately, resonance. The film also features a bunch of "secondary characters" all of whom bring additional juice to the piece, specifically Jared Harris, who plays the ideal NY performance artist ("Do you paint?"-great exchange) and Bill Pullman, who has a very small role, but gives us plenty to mull over. We knew you could do it, Billy! Very reminiscent of Wes Anderson's superb dialogue, well-developed characters and peppy soundtracks, this flick felt a little ROYAL TENENBAUM-ish, but dare I say...with more depth? I loved this film through and through and I hope that a lot of people get to see it and its wonderful performances, especially Culkin's. If you're looking for a movie that cannot be categorized into any one group but successfully transitions itself between very funny moments and very tender...this baby is for you!

PS: Interesting note is that first-time director Burr Steers is also an actor who played the character of "Roger" in Quentin Tarantino's PULP FICTION.
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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