Igby Goes Down


Dir: Burr Steers
Star: Kieran Culkin, Claire Danes, Susan Sarandon, Ryan Phillipe

They say write what you know, and if anyone should know the lifestyles of the rich and famous, it's writer/director Steers, nephew of both Jacqueline Kennedy and Gore Vidal. So he tells the story of Igby (Culkin), a privileged brat who, seeing the way his father fell apart, resolves to fight against going down that path, despite the efforts of his junkie mother (Sarandon) and near-alcoholic brother (Phillipe) to force him into more conventional ways. Of course, he's still a teenager: while possessing a wit beyond his years, he gets a futile crush on Sookie (Danes) during his revolt against a family who, largely, seem not to notice his rebellion or care very much.

Frankly, I'm with them - despite some effective moments and sharp jabs at the idle rich, I eventually didn't care much about Igby either. Almost ever review of this seems to mention Catcher in the Rye, but not having read that since school, I can't really comment. On its own terms, it's very amusing to start with, and possesses rapier dialogue, but by the end, it felt like watching a nest of vipers eat each other. We also learn that NY women leap into bed with a plain-looking 17-year old at the drop of a witticism; why the hell didn't I know that when I was 17? I just didn't see much of a character arc for anyone and, in particular, suspect Igby ended up the same screwed-up obnoxious shit as he started, only a few months older. Poor little rich kids have problems too, I guess.

C+
August 2004


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