Urban Cinefile  
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday July 28, 2020 


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.

A satisfying package of special features includes a well made behind the scenes feature, an entertaining commentary with director Burr Steers and Kieren Culkin plus some deleted scenes with optional commentary. In Search of Igby is well worth a look. “It’s a teenage story; it’s about being young and trying to find himself,” says the director, and we hear from all the actors who describe why they believed in the script and what made them want to make the movie. The cast and director talk about each actor individually and what each brought to the film. Jeff Goldblum, for instance, is the funniest actor Ryan Phillippe has ever worked with and is fascinated by him as person.

The audio commentary with Burr Steers and Kieren Culkin sounds as though they are two friends reflecting over the whole experience – and having fun doing so. Theirs is an easy rapport and because the characters are so complex, this is one commentary that is worth listening to. There are deleted scenes with optional commentary, explaining why they never made the final cut.

Published October 23, 2003

Email this article



CAST: Kieran Culkin, Claire Danes, Jeff Goldblum, Jared Harris, Amanda Peet, Ryan Phillippe, Bill Pullman, Susan Sarandon, Rory Culkin

DIRECTOR: Burr Steers

SCRIPT: Burr Steers

RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes

PRESENTATION: 16 : 9 widescreen

SPECIAL FEATURES: In Search of Igby; audio commentary with writer/director Burr Steers and Keiran Culkin; Deleted scenes with optional commentary; photo gallery;

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: October 22, 2003

© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020