Igby Goes Down


Director/writer: Burr Steers

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Kieran Culkin is not a repellant young actor like his brother McCully Culkin, but he's nevertheless an odd casting choice as the teenager whom every gorgeous grown woman in the story so badly wants to shtup that she cannot resist robbing the cradle. He's more apt to have been the highschool dork who'd mainly attract old man chickenhawks.

I quite disliked this film for the first hour as it seemed like a commercial Hollywood film struggling to be edgy. But the last half hour finally got to me. By the end it seemed to be a pretty good film, but it's not an easy one to like right off the bat.

In the opening sequence Igby (Culkin) & his brother Ollie (Ryan Phillipe) have just poisoned their hateful obnoxious wealthy mother (Susan Sarandan) & are waiting for her to die. Since she keeps on living, they tie a plastic bag on her head. Then the film begins a long flashback to show how the boys came to this point, & by the climax the meaning of this first scene has changed.

All the characters are intentionally difficult to like from Bill Pullman as the father who loses his mind & is sent to live in a home, to the snarky mom & her smarmy married boyfriend (Jeff Goldblum), to every blessed one of the side-characters.

A few manage to gain some sympathy before the end, but mostly these aren't characters to like. They move in a world of such wealth they're also not characters to pity. Even so, after a while, this world of the privileged but dysfunctional slowly becomes credible, though the moral here seems to be that youth is wasted on the young & money is wasted on the wealthy.

So it's a black comedy wherein beautiful adult women cannot resist screwing nurdy Igby who gets the shit beat out of him by his jealous godfather (Goldblum) who is married to a seemingly mentally retarded woman (Celia Weston) on whom he regularly cheats. Igby does everything he can to avoid getting an education while his priggish older brother succeeds at everything in a brown-nosing sort of way that can't be healthy.

Igby would rather hang out with disturbed riffraff than his own class of people, & no one can blame him for that. Nobody honestly likes anyone else unless Claire Danes as Sooky really likes Igby. It's the great unlikeability of everyone that at first makes the the film so difficult to relate to & the comedy so not funny. But then about two-thirds of the way through, Igby finally begins to seem pretty sympathetic since his pointless rebelliousness begins to look like an intelligent choice compared to everything else stupid that hems him in. By the end I decided that if it is a Hollywood film struggling to be edgy, it does just about succeed at being so.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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