Igby Goes Down

Year 2002

Kieran Culkin as  Igby Slocumb
Susan Sarandon   as Mimi Slocumb
Jeff Goldblum as D.H.
Claire Danes as Sookie Sapperstein  
Ryan Phillippe as Oliver Slocumb
Bill Pullman as Jason Slocumb
Amanda Peet as Rachel
Director - Burr Steers
Screenwriter - Burr Steers

Shocker! A chick flick that can be watched and enjoyed by a guy! 

If you've ever read and liked, in a dark sort of way, Catcher in the Rye, then you should be entertained by this movie.

It's been a few years since I've seen Igby Goes Down (IGD), so some of my memories may be a bit off. But, as scenes from the movie replay themselves in my head, it seems to me that the movie is more than just an updating of Catcher. There's also a bit of Candide and some World According to Garp thrown in.

Igby is a slacker in his late teens. He's been thrown out of schools and wants nothing to do with anything resembling responsibility. He feels superior to everyone, just like the main character in Catcher.

But where Catcher took place over a short period of time, Igby's story lasts for months. An example of how this affects the story has to do with a physical relationship. In Catcher the main character, Holden Caulfield, hires a hooker. When faced with having to perform "the act" with her, he loses his nerve. Nevertheless, she demands more money for her time than was originally negotiated and in the end, her pimp beats up Holden to get it. In IGD, the female is Rachel (Amanda Peet), a heroine addict who is also someone's mistress. The identity of her "pimp" would not mean as much if the story took place over a period of only a few days so it's drawn out longer. But in this relationship, Igby like Holden gets beat up.

This incident notwithstanding, the fact that everything just sort of falls into place for Igby at the beginning of the story is reminiscent of Candide.

The kookie characters that keep cropping up in IGD remind me of those unique individuals created by John Irving for Garp. Among the feckless are Igby's insane father and a cross-dressing drug dealer.

As much as Igby tries to make sense of the adult world that he's going to have to enter sooner or later, the more the rules elude him. Things come to a head when he not only finds himself at one corner of a love triagle that includes himself, a girl who seems to be the best adjusted of all the characters, and his brother, but also problems arise regarding his mother that he needs to deal with.

The whole coming of age tale is bookended by the death of Igby's mom. The circumstances around that are unusual, too, so I don't want to spoil anything. Let's just say that it was good to see Susan Sarandon in a role she was suited for (other than the mainstay role of (dammit) "Janet").

So why is it a chick flick? For starters, a young, deluded man get twisted around his finger by women. There's a role model thing going on and many women will imagine themselves in the role of the undoer of a wastrel. Others will see themselves in the role of the woman who got the wastrel to get back on the right path. Also, there're no shootings, car chases, or explosions.

Why would a guy like it? Well, there's Amanda Peet for starters. There's also some comedy. Most of all, it's because Igby likes to elicit a reaction through shock techniques and is lost but looking. Like most guys, he doesn't quite get it and keeps an eye out for an item or event that will give him the next piece to the puzzle of life. He's not a dumbed down male stereotype. Rather, he's merely naive and trying to rectify that deficiency.

Why did I like it? Even though it was filled with black humor, the movie itself never got too dark or glum. It provided a fresh take on the "coming of age" story. Igby's future was often in doubt, so it wasn't predictable. The characters didn't come off of an assembly line. For example, Jeff Goldblum's performance as Igby's black hearted godfather was darned near perfect (and I'm not always a Jeff Goldblum fan).

To wrap it up, it's not for those who like fast paced action adventures. But if you like quirky characters trying, usually unsuccessfully, to interact with each other, it's worth the time to watch.

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