IGBY GOES DOWN
Jason 'Igby' Slocumb Jr (Kieran Culkin) is a 17 year old rebel who resents the world of privilege into which he was born. His father Jason (Bill Pullman) is a suicidal schizophrenic, his society mother Mimi (Susan Sarandon) is totally self-absorbed and his Republican big brother Oliver (Ryan Phillippe) can do no wrong. After being expelled from a series of exclusive schools, Igby runs away from Military Academy and goes searching for the meaning of life in the bohemian underworld of Manhattan. Taking refuge in a loft owned by his Godfather, D.H. Baines (Jeff Goldblum), he meets a colourful mix, including DH’s mistress Rachel (Amanda Peet) and student dropout Sookie Sapperstein (Claire Danes) as he struggles to keep himself from ‘going down’.
Review by Louise Keller:
He lies, he bribes, he sweet talks and cheats – Igby is a precocious teen who majors in attitude. Witty and amusing with underlying tragic overtones, Igby Goes Down is a coming of age story, and a wonderful mix of quirky characters from a dysfunctional family. It’s an outstanding debut from writer/director Burr Steers, who has crafted a complex and highly entertaining character driven comedy that is relentless in its pursuit of capturing the wacky and unexpected. It’s clear from the beginning that the relationships in this film are far from normal. Igby is brought up in an unreal environment that has left him brattish and uncontrollable. His pill-popping mother Mimi seems to delight in belittling him as well as his father, who has totally lost the plot. As for his debonair older-than-his-years brother Oliver, well he just doesn’t seem to ever put a foot out of line. Thank goodness for his less-than-conventional godfather, who manages to juggle his wife and mistress single-handedly. ‘Families should be run by companies’ states DH; ‘She’s not the sharpest tool in the shed,’ observes Igby about DH’s wife. A delectable mix of musical beds in the style of The Graduate and Tadpole, Igby Goes Down delights with its crazy characters that are brought to life by a superbly talented ensemble cast. Kieran Culkin nails the troubled Igby; he repulses but endears himself to us at the same time. Jeff Goldblum stands out in an edgy performance and Claire Danes is eminently appealing as the daughter of a jewish theologian and metaphysical poetess, the aptly named Sookie who rolls joints like a vegetarian. (When she asks ‘What kind of a name is Igby’, he retorts ‘When you’re called Sookie, you’ve no reason to question it’). Everyone is terrific - Ryan Phillippe’s plum-in-mouth toffy can’t-do-wrong brother, Bill Pullman’s mentally deranged father, Amanda Peet’s seductress dancer who doesn’t dance, her transvestite artist friend who doesn’t paint and Susan Sarandon’s tyrant mother. (Rory Culkin appears as the younger Igby in a flashback.) Ultimately though, it’s Igby’s relationship with his family that triggers the emotions and the love/hate relationship finds its way through the maze. These heartfelt scenes are beautifully played in an understated way, and they affect strongly, but unexpectedly. If you enjoy meeting new people, shake hands with Igby.
Review by Richard Kuipers:
Igby Goes Down is a smart, funny and touching film that belongs in the 'Rebellious Schoolboy' hall of fame alongside greats such as If....(1968) and Rushmore (1998). Kieran Culkin is wonderful as a modern-day Holden Caulfield whose upbringing in a spectacularly dysfunctional family has turned his rites of passage into an all-out confrontation with the world at large. In his impressive feature debut, writer-director Burt Steer asks us to sympathise with a spoilt rich kid and succeeds because the emotional poverty of Igby's life far outweighs any material advantage he's been handed. We know this emphatically from the opening scene in which Igby and his brother Oliver are debating the best way to poison their cancer-stricken mother. 'The cause of our trouble here was our inability to come up with a drug short of paint thinner that would be at least novel to her system' is Igby's tragi-comic interpretation of his part in high society euthanasia. The skewed path of what follows this arresting introduction and the gallery of distinctive characters surrounding Igby makes this a fresh take on familiar teen angst territory. Susan Sarandon is superb (is she ever anything but?) as Igby's pill-popping mother (he calls her 'The Heinous One') who retains the services of four doctors to feed her addiction to 'peppies'. Bill Pullman proves what an underrated performer he is as the boy's mentally destroyed father and Jeff Goldblum is a sleazy delight as a property developer who enjoys renovating apartments and installing young women in them as decoration. Claire Danes also turns in one of her best performances as the elusive object of Igby's affections who destroys more than one of his illusions by falling for his smarmy brother Oliver. Balancing its frequently absurd humour with poignant observations of that time in life when you're not sure exactly what it is you're rebelling against, Igby Goes Down is an offbeat winner.
Email this article
IGBY GOES DOWN (MA)
CAST: Kieran Culkin, Claire Danes, Jeff Goldblum, Jared Harris, Amanda Peet, Ryan Phillippe, Bill Pullman, Susan Sarandon, Rory Culkin
PRODUCER: Lisa Tornell, Marco Weber
DIRECTOR: Burr Steers
SCRIPT: Burr Steers
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Wedigo von Schultzendorff
EDITOR: William M. Anderson
MUSIC: Uwe Fahrenkrog Petersen, Pete Yorn
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Kevin Thompson
RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Palace
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 5, 2003
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: October 22, 2003