Igby Goes Down  (2002) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Igby is basically Catcher in the Rye (yes, one more time) updated 50 years.

Kieran Culkin plays Igby, a sarcastic seventeen-year-old rebel who is unwilling to settle into his family's world of Eastern money and privilege. His schizophrenic father has been institutionalized, his monstrous self-absorbed mother brutalizes him, and his pretentious Young Republican big brother is about ready to join a future Nixonesque White House. Igby figures there must be a better way to live than the oppressive dysfunction and hypocrisy of his family, and his alienation turns him into a bitter, deeply sarcastic kid.

Igby is sent off to a succession of prep schools and military academies until, with the aid of his mother's pilfered credit card, he goes on the lam. Busted out of the O'Hare Hilton and stripped of the Visa card, he then needs a place to hide from his mother. Most of the film consists of Igby's search for a place to park his body while he waits for his real life to begin.

Igby's Odyssey is summarized by The Band's song, The Weight, which wraps the film up in a lengthy, wordless set piece.

I pulled into Nazareth
Was feelin' 'bout half past dead
I just need some place where I can lay my head
'Hey, Mister can you tell me where a man might find a bed?'
He just grinned and shook my hand
And 'no' was all he said.

His blackly comedic quest for a "place to lay his head" eventually lands him in New York, where he hides out at his godfather's weekend retreat. There he encounters love and/or lust, in the form of his godfather's heroin-addicted, performance artist, trophy girlfriend, and a terminally bored pseudo-bohemian college student, Sookie Sapperstein.

The film begins and ends with the death of Igby's mother, whose sons may or may not have killed her. (The mystery of whether and why is the framing story.)


there is a brief look at Amanda Peet's breasts as she dresses

Bill Pullman (or, more likely, a body double) shows a brief flash of buns

As so many of the most intelligent movies seem to be the days, the film is a tragicomedy with moments of unconcealed deep sadness, and other moments of black humor that conceal an even greater sadness. I liked the film because it is smart and I have kind of a black sense of humor myself, but it isn't an easy one to like because there is no character in the film to relate to. Igby may someday be a person that would make a good friend or companion, but he's struggling to find that future person, and the teenaged version is too filled with bitterness and faux-Salinger angst to be empathetic. Let's face it, he's a complete douchebag, and you'll want to kick his butt just as much the rest of the characters do.
not yet on home media

We can see why is he that way, but we still don't like him, except sporadically. His only real claim to our affection is that he is somewhat less despicable than the rest of the characters in the film, and chooses to ridicule those more detestable than he.

That's a tenuous emotional connection, to be sure.


Igby Goes Down (2002) is a "coming of age" black comedy in the Holden Caulfield, Catcher in the Rye tradition. Kieran Culkin plays the privileged offspring of a mega-bitch mother (Susan Sarandon) and a father (Bill Pullman) who has gone through meltdown and is a vegetable at a home for the terminally bewildered. His older brother (Ryan Phillippe) is the perfect preppy in his freshman year at Columbia.

The film starts with Culkin and Phillippe apparently killing their mother, and then does the old flashback routine.

Igby specializes in getting thrown out of prep schools. His step father (Jeff Goldblum) tries to take him under his wing. Igby ends up living in one of Goldblum's lofts, and having sex with Goldblum's girlfriend, Amanda Peet.

Those who liked it praised great writing, clever dialogue, and good performances.

The Critics Vote

  • General USA consensus: three and a half stars. Ebert 3.5/4, Berardinelli 3/4, Entertainment Weekly A.

  • The film was nominated for two Golden Globes (for acting)

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. Voting results: IMDb voters score it a fairly respectable 7.5/10, Yahoo voters appraise it at 3.8/5, and Metacritic users assigned 7.2/10
  • Box Office Mojo. $4.7 million in arthouse distribution. It never reached as many as 200 theaters. Budget: $9 million.

Miscellaneous ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, Scoopy said, "C+. A very literate film, incisive in many ways, but with no emotional anchor. The film is simply too aloof to reach a large audience." Tuna said, "C. I guess I am just not impressed by neurosis peculiar to the rich, because I was very glad to see it end."

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