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Igby Goes Down (15)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: In Search of Igby. Deleted scenes; Deleted scenes with director's commentary; Original theatrical trailer.

TEENAGE rebel, Igby Slocumb, is angry at the stifling, two-faced world of ‘old money’ privilege he was born into, and his battle to break out makes for one of the most bitingly funny, yet painfully sad, comedies of the year.

Igby Goes Down marks the wickedly barbed debut of writer/director, Burr Steers, and displays a refreshing honesty not usually associated with coming-of-age movies of this type.

As his pill-popping, self-absorbed mother states, at one stage, ‘his creation was an act of animosity, why shouldn’t his life be’? The movie which ensures suitably fills us in.

Igby (Kieran Culkin) is the neglected son of the Slocumb family, a child left by the wayside after his father, Jason (Bill Pullman), suffers a sad slide into schizophrenia, prompting his mother, Mimi (Susan Sarandon), to force him into any educational establishment that will take him.

To make matters worse, he has nothing in common with his older brother, Oliver (Ryan Phillippe), an equally selfish young republican, on a fast-track to materialism at Columbia University - someone who represents everything that Igby is striving to escape from.

Hence, after flunking out of a Midwest military academy, and armed with his mother’s pilfered credit card, the sarcastic 17-year-old heads for New York, determined to do something different with his life, eventually hiding out in the weekend pied-a-terre of his rich godfather (Jeff Goldblum).

Once there, he inadvertently falls in with a host of questionable characters, including Goldblum’s trophy girlfriend (Amanda Peet), her flamboyant artist pal, Russell (Jared Harris), and the terminally bored Sookie Sapperstein (Claire Danes), with whom he falls in love.

But while his newfound friends offer him sanctuary and some fun, tragedy is never far away, as all become tainted, in some way, by their association to the privileged Slocumbs.

Beginning with the mercy killing of Igby’s mother, Mimi, Igby Goes Down recounts the jet black tale of one boy’s attempts to escape from the clutches of this most dysfunctional family - a morally dubious collection of oddballs who make The Royal Tenenbaums look sane.

Based in part on the personal experiences of its writer/director, and influenced by such works as The Catcher in the Rye, Igby Goes Down was initially envisaged as a character in a book, until Steers realised that his protagonist’s story would be better communicated visually.

The result makes for stimulating viewing, with Culkin a formidable presence among a strong ensemble cast, helping to turn a character that could have become tiresome and precocious into a shrewd and likeable ‘hero’ - one who is genuinely worth rooting for.

Though considerably aided by Steers’ incisive script - which succeeds in delivering a dazzling array of quotable one-liners - Culkin still rises to the challenge, displaying the same sort of ‘laidback cool’ he exuded during his West End stint in This Is Our Youth, along with an emotional resonance that makes each sucker punch more difficult to take.

Culkin’s is the star turn in a movie packed with memorable performances from a cast that uniformly shines - Goldblum, in particular, is terrific as the loathsome godfather, while Peet finally proves herself to be an actress of worth, given the right material.

Steers’ clever use of music also serves to enhance the movie’s visceral experience, without detracting from the events, with songs by The Dandy Warhols, Badly Drawn Boy and Coldplay used to terrific effect.

And while the movie may ultimately lack the colourful charm of, say, The Royal Tenenbaums (to which it has often been compared), it remains just as hip in its own quirky way and is a genuine contender for one of the films of the year.

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