Rental Review: Igby Goes Down

by Jake Sproul

Rating: (out of )
DVD Extras Rating: Below Average

Catcher in the Rye is one of America’s most beloved novels, and next to The Scarlet Letter and To Kill a Mockingbird, it is probably the most read novel in American high schools. However, Catcher in the Rye has never had a film adaptation, unlike many of its counterparts. One of the reasons Catcher in the Rye has never had an adaptation is because the book is mainly a train of thought, with very little dialogue. For a movie, which unlike a novel, is a visual experience, a movie without dialogue or visual action is like a cup without a bottom. Igby Goes Down is perhaps the closest adaptation to Catcher and the Rye that the world will ever see. The film is able to transcend the boundary between mental and physical and we are able to see with our eyes thoughts, however, when we see inside the train of thought, all we see is shallow selfishness. Now I know why I hated Catcher in the Rye so much.

Igby is a seventeen year old boy, who has literally been kicked out of every high class private school on the entire eastern coast. We comes from wealthy parents, yet, like Holden Caulfield, he is crestfallen 24/7. He eventually runs away from home, and finds himself in New York. Igby Goes Down is essentially a one-man show on Igby’s adventures in the Big Apple. Throughout which, he has infrequent meetings with his Economics majoring brother, Oliver, and an older woman named Sookie.

I have seen some pertinacious movies in my time, movies that call themselves art, when in reality all they are is self-gratification for the director. Igby Goes Down is prime example of this. While the characters develop fine in the movie, especially Igby, the relationships between Igby and other people go no where. It feels like there should have been a “We now continue Igby Goes Down, already in progress” credit in the beginning. For example, Igby is supposed to have this strained relationship with his mother, yet we see no incidents where things take place between the two. A lot of Igby Goes Down is just inconsequential, like the character of D.H., who has prominent screen time, yet his personality is somehow masked throughout the entire duration of the movie. Igby eventually falls in love with a girl named Sookie, but do we see it? OF COURSE NOT!

Its a sad truth, but the Culkin family has become one of Hollywood’s foremost acting families. Of course, there is McCauley, and then there is Rory Culkin, who we saw in Signs earlier this year, (Rory also plays young Igby in this movie), and Kieran. Until now, they have been the Osmond’s of acting, no real substance. That has all changed here, as Kieran handles himself beautifully in what is essentially a one person show. Its unfortunate that Igby Goes Down is such an awful movie for Kieran to stretch his acting wings in. Susan Sarandon and Bill Paxton play Igby’s parents and both give what is their worst performances in years, she is way too silly and far fetched to be anything but a parody of the character she is playing, and he plays a schizophrenic who causes more laughter than drama, but fortunately for him, a lot of the blame can be brought back to writer Burt Steers.

Although Ryan Phillippe doesn’t have tremendous screen time, he does make the most of the time he is given. Of course it would be impossible for anyone to outshine Kieran Culkin, Ryan comes very close, giving what is his best performance to date. This is the second more serious role that he has taken, following his role in Gosford Park. Mr. Phillippe doesn’t need any more help in the acting department, he needs a new agent. The only parts he has had are serious roles is God-awful movies, or teenager roles in God-awful movies.

Igby Goes Down is the least likable film I have seen all year. Director/writer Burt Steers seems to have a deft hand when it comes to alienating an audience. While he is able to progress one character, he lets the relationships of the character, side plots, and other character development waste away into nothingness. He even managed to squabble two superlative performances. I watched Igby Goes Down yesterday, from the time I am writing my review. In the 28 hours or so that have passed since that time, I have managed to forget most of the movie. So not only is Igby Goes Down bad, its forgettable too! That is the final nail in the coffin of Igby Goes Down. Igby certainly should Go 6 feet under, down.

© 2003 Jacob Sproul

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