Igby Goes Down (2002) / Drama-Comedy
MPAA Rated: R for language, sexuality and drug content
Running Time: 98 min.
Cast: Kieran Culkin, Claire Danes, Jeff Goldblum, Jared Harris, Amanda Peet, Ryan Phillippe
Director: Burr Steers
Screenplay: Burr Steers
Review published October 4, 2002
Black comedy is a tricky form of comedy to pull off, as some people will get it, and some people won't. Usually I'm in the minority when it comes to black comedies, and quite frequently I feel like I'm the only one who truly enjoyed a certain film because it was on the same wavelength as my twisted sense of humor. I'm not exactly sure what wavelength IGBY GOES DOWN was transmitting, but I certainly was not tuned to it. While I can recognize the attempts at humor, and even some of the attempts at seriousness below the surface, that doesn't necessarily mean I found them entertaining or even particularly interesting. For most of the running time of IGBY GOES DOWN, I was waiting for the tone to stop being so uneven and finally get into a groove. It never did for me. Like a vehicle being driven by a teenager for the first time, IGBY DOWN UNDER starts with a lurch, then halts, then sputters, grinds when in the wrong gear, and sometimes stalls out altogether. Like the passenger in the same vehicle, the result of watching it is a mixture of anticipation, apprehension, annoyance, and ultimately, aggravation. The only solace is knowing that at some point it will eventually end.
Jason "Igby" Slocumb is a teenage boy who desperately rejects all that his family and society wants him to be or do. Born into a well-to-do family, he is a nihilistic malcontent, despising his mother, military school, and is willing to piss away his future just to annoy those who push him. His father is a schizophrenic, his mother a hateful drunk, his brother an uppity Republican, and no one in his life understands him, or is even interested in listening. One day he runs away from his prep school to loaf around New York City, living in the apartment of his godfather's mistress, and leads a meaningless existence which will either suck him in or spur him on to try to find something more substantial to do with his life, and finds others just as vacuous as he is.
On a certain level, I'm sure there must be people out there that can relate to this film, depending on their upbringing, where they reside, or the types of people they may meet on a day-to-day basis. At least I should hope so, because there is too much talent involved to think it had no resonance. It's a bit of a paradoxical film, with themes and tones that seem at odds with each other. The characters are well-drawn, yet not very realistic. The writing is good, but not very interesting. The actors give terrific performances, but have little appeal. There is a great deal of humor, but little that's very funny.
By the time the credits rolled, I felt a bit empty and a bit cheated that I wasted my time and energy trying to find something to be interested in or entertained by. Somehow, I feel a bit inferior because I didn't find a connection to the story or message of the film. On the other hand, I also feel the film didn't exactly do a decent job in formulating its tale in a cohesive or adept fashion and find it lacking. Based on some comments I have read on other movie sites, it would appear that the film has a following and some decent reviews, so there must be an audience out there for it after all. We're obviously not all on the same wavelength.
©2002 Vince Leo