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Masterpiece Cinema - Igby Goes Down

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"Igby Goes Down"

Starring Kieran Culkin, Claire Danes, Jeff Goldblum, Amanda Peet,

Ryan Phillippe, Susan Sarandon and Bill Pullman.

Written & Directed by Burr Steers.

Genre: Drama / Comedy

Released: 2002

Running time: 97 mins.

Rated: R (American rating for language, sexuality and drug content).

IMDb link:

I get the feeling that Igby Goes Down isnt the kind of movie I should
like. Theres this bizarre sub-genre going on both in film and in
literature, which deals with whiney, spoilt, and quite often young
people living affluent lives in New York. Books like Nick McDonells
Twelve and Jay McInerneys Bright Lights, Big City and films like Cruel
Intentions anduhBright Lights, Big Cityare good examples of this style.
Im sure theres a name for it, but Im stumped as to what it is. A friend
of mine refers to it as Hamptons literature, referring to the place
where these people all seem to have holiday residences.

Personally, Ive never cared for the Hamptons genre. Its always
perplexed me as to why exactly I should give a single crap about these
people. They have every single opportunity in the world available to
them, but I should still feel sorry for them? Not bloody likely.

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. One such exception
is Igby Goes Down. Its an almost perfect example of the Hamptons genre,
but for some reason, it just works. I think that has a lot to do with
the castbut well get to that later.

Igby Goes Down tells the
story of Igby Slocumb, the youngest son of a Manhattan power couple
whos been going off the rails ever since his dad had a mental
breakdown. Hes been kicked out of just about every private school on
the east coast, he habitually binges on drugs and alcohol, and his
family has had just about enough of him. As his brother tells him, if
Gandhi had to spend a prolonged amount of time with you, he'd end up
beating the shit out of you, too.

But after a series of events
that range from learning of his godfathers affair to meeting a
nymphomaniacal, pseudo-Bohemian, Igby finds he needs to confront what
it is that sent his life spiralling off in the direction that it has.

While researching for this articleif you can even call what I do
researchI spent a little time reading some quotes from the film, and it
really struck me; this movie is funny. It has a real wit to it that
most works in this genre aim for but never really achieve. Screenwriter
and director Burr Steer (who, incidentally, played the character
referred to as Flock of Seagulls in Pulp Fiction) has imbued the script
with a great level of intelligence and humour. Apparently, his original
intention was to write the story as a book. But that would have run the
risk of it becoming too laboured and heavy-handed. As it stands, it
hits just the right tone.

Of course, with such a strong cast,
the movie could be a recitation of the phone book and it would still
come off half decent. And who knew that Kieran Culkin was such a good
actor? This was the kid that spent Home Alone 1 & 2 terrifying his
relatives with the threat of peeing his bed while he slept. But now hes
talented enough to carry his own movie. And carry it he does,
delivering such a strong performance that you cant really imagine
anyone else in the roleeven if Culkin has a disturbing similarity to
Edward Furlong. But thats just me going all tangential on you. Sorry.

I wont be so bold as to say that Igby Goes Down transcends the whole
Hamptons genre, nor does it entirely escape the annoyances that are
inherent to the style. But it comes damn close, with its dark wit, its
intelligence, and its heart.

Next week: Honestly? No idea! But Ill have something, I promise!

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