"Igby Goes Down"
Directed by Burr Steers.
Written by Burr Steers.
Starring Kieran Culkin, Claire Danes, Ryan Phillippe and Susan
Release Year: 2002
Review Date: 8/23/02
Another day, another freebie. “Igby Goes
Down” doesn’t even open wide until September, but my friend Max
hooked me up with a press screening of the film here in San
Francisco recently so I checked it out.
“Igby Goes Down” is another in the long line
of quirky ensemble dramedies that features way too many stars in way
too little time. Kieran Culkin stars as Igby, a 17-year-old misfit
that has decided school is not for him. So, he wanders around New
York City avoiding his older, more scholarly brother (Ryan Phillippe),
his dying mother (Susan Sarandon), and his institutionalized father
(Bill Pullman). After attending a party of family friend CH (Jeff
Goldblum), he meets Sookie (Claire Danes), a vegetarian
metaphysically-interested 20-something, and Rachel (Amanda Peet), a
cracked-out mistress of CH that is a dancer. Through all of this,
Igby tries to figure out a scheme to get out of his hometown New
York to start a new life.
So, as a coming-of-age story, “Igby Goes
Down” has many of the traditional ingredients, and as a
comedy-turned-drama, the script by rookie writer/director Burr
Steers has plenty of laughs early on before turning into a serious
drama. The best thing going for this film is the performance by
Culkin, who is a better actor than older brother Macaulay ever was.
In “Igby Goes Down”, Culkin just gives a really convincing,
confident performance as the troubled teen, and he gets to do a
little bit of everything in the film to show off his skills. And,
by being given the only really serious amount of screen time, it is
good that our lead is so talented. There are some hearty laughs
early on, and the film’s language is partly responsible for that—Igby
is a foul-mouthed bastard, but if what he is saying is funny, then
it’s all good to me.
But, after about the midway point of the
film, the laughs seem to dry up completely as Igby starts to
seriously consider the consequences of alienating his family,
deserting school, etc. The support by all of those people listed
above doesn’t help things either—save for Phillippe (who continues
to impress as he avoids typical pretty-boy roles), almost all of
these people are wasted and none resonates with the audience during
or after your visit to the theater. Peet, much like Morgan Freeman,
seems to only read scripts that are exactly in her stereotypical
role type...so, it should come as no surprise that she wears too
much makeup, has a brief sex scene, and looks drunk or high or lit
in all of her scenes. Pullman is in so little of this film that Max
and I wondered after the film if he was even paid for it, and
Sarandon must know the director to take a role like this one. It
was good to see Danes again, if anything because she hasn’t worked
in a few years...her role is cool in the first hour of the film, but
devolves badly in the film’s final third.
As a one-hour, R-rated, MTV teen comedy, the
first hour of “Igby Goes Down” is pretty good stuff. It is too bad
that, like a surprising number of small/independent films this year,
the ending fails to live up to the premise of the work. It is
funny—everyone seems to bad-mouth studio films, but this is one of
the best years for born-and-raised studio films that I can ever
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard