Writer/actor Burr Steers gives Catcher in the Rye a modern New York spin in Igby Goes Down, an obnoxious coming-of-age saga whose ironic characters may as well be rejects from Andy Warhol’s Factory. Igby (Kieran Culkin) has the worst family in the world: his godfather D.H. (Jeff Goldblum) is a “parody”; his brother Oliver (Ryan Phillippe) is a Republican; his alcoholic father Jason (Bill Pullman) just checked into an insane asylum; and his pill-popping mother Mimi (a thoroughly frightening Susan Sarandon) loves to sit on the maid’s face. Too smart-alecky for a kid without a high school diploma, Igby trades military school for a stay in New York, no doubt hoping to find himself amid the baggage the director drops on the poor sap’s lap. Though his boorish brother calls him a “glutton for fucking punishment,” the relatively enlightened Igby is merely Steers’s punching bag (indeed, the boy is all but beaten to a bloody pulp on three different occasions). Caterer’s assistant Sookie (Claire Danes) denies Igby a ciggy at D.H.‘s Hamptons palace only to freely offer her ganja when they bump into each other in SoHo. Soon they’re fucking and exchanging stories about themselves but that’s when proletariat Sookie decides to marry Igby’s brother. More troublesome than the erratic behavior and inexplicable bouts of violence is the self-analysis the film’s repugnant characters are so readily prone to. The smarmy Steers takes joy in surprising his audience with the film’s shocks. The immensely talented Culkin wears the director’s otherwise self-conscious, sarcastic dialogue like a sleeve (the rest of the cast is proportionately less successful) though he remains clueless to what his character’s constant flagellation means. In this respect, Igby Goes Down is as disconcerting as LaBute’s equally nasty though less charming dramedy Your Friends & Neighbors. These evocations of privileged lifestyles on the edge feel wholly disingenuous.
- Burr Steers
- Burr Steers
- Kieran Culkin, Susan Sarandon, Jeff Goldblum, Claire Danes, Ryan Phillippe, Bill Pullman, Amanda Peet, Jared Harris
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