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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 19.05%
Average: 14.29%
Pretty Bad: 20.24%
Total Crap: 17.86%

5 reviews, 54 user ratings

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Igby Goes Down
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by Thom

"Igby doesn't go that far down."
2 stars

There is no way to avoid comparing this film to Catcher in the Rye and American Beauty. The film borrows the appealing draw of those two works and then doesn’t add much of its own to fill in the blanks. Kieren Culkin plays Igby, a Holden-like character who seems to be pretty unaffected by his traumatic life. Igby won’t stay in school and its no wonder he just runs from authority and from his family. They are pathologically dysfunctional and their wealth only exacerbates their inability to develop healthy relationships. Igby has no models to work from and when he runs away to the city, you expect him to knock on the back door of the Plaza Hotel because he just wouldn’t know where to go.

When Igby was a child, he witnesses his dad (Bill Pullman) having a psychotic break. His mother (Susan Sarandon) remarries and his father spends the rest of his life in an Asylum. Igby has a difficult relationship with his step-father (Jeff Goldblum), who blatantly parades his mistress (Amanda Peet) around. His mother has terminal cancer and when Igby is required to help euthanize her, he follows through numbly. He doesn’t exactly register much emotion while his mother makes the whole event seem as innocuous as washing the dishes.

Since they are wealthy and well-connected, the murder/suicide is conveniently recorded as a natural death and life without beurocratic consequences continues along its merry way.

Ryan Phillipe plays Igby’s older, snobbish brother headed for Wall Street who tries to corral Igby back into the family fold. The last life Igby wants is as a spoiled trust fund Ameristocrat. The two brothers have an uneasy, if nonexistent relationship.

The performances are great. The scenes themselves are good to watch, but the film had little overall impact. The boho fantasy of a Hampton rebel lacked a certain reality. I cringed every time I saw that big beautiful wasted loft inhabited by Igby’s Step-father’s mistress and her louche, Eddie Izzard-like drag queen lover surviving off kickdown’s messily gained. You could run from one end to the other.

The writer/director Burr Steers who grew up in the wealthy enclave depicted in the film has tried to draw a bridge between class privilege and the streets of Manhattan. But it’s hard to be accepted as a rebel when your life has had nothing but privilege. Igby may end up having to survive by his wits after alienating himself from his family, but he will always have social connections that will allow him back “in” should he decide his wayward adventure isn’t cutting it.

Watching him walk through those closing doors is pretty spectacular. I would have hoped for more resoluteness though. Some kind of dramatic finality that let you know that he can ONLY go out into the unknown.

Steers said, “The real tragedy of this story as that two people from different classes will never develop a relationship.” I think the real tragedy of this story is that it’s intended audience would be the least bit sympathetic with Igby. Aristotle, in his theory of tragedy, wrote that tragic figures have to be larger than life, Royalty or Aristocracy, because their fortune or misfortune end up affecting the wider population. But with Death of a Salesman, we saw that the personal tragedy of a traveling salesman could have the same emotional impact as Macbeth or Oedipus.

IGBY GOES DOWN vacillates between the two. With stories of people in power, the conflict has to be about idealism and wide impact. The background is too large and auspicious to waste on what amounts to pornography. The moments in the film are worthwhile – the psychotic break, killing his mother, girlfriend on a heroin binge in the bathroom, nodding out with her panties around her ankles, but they don’t serve a larger story. When Igby goes down, I want his whole world to go down with him, but it doesn’t.

There is no descent into despair or helplessness or madness. Igby starts in a pretty low place already but for him, its all part of his normal, day to day life. He's just lost in his world, and that can make him an interesting observer, like Edith Wharton, if he manages to find a way to make his social situation work for him. He's a victim and his situation is pathetic, but there is little compelling motion that challenges or forges his character.

The rich are not like you and me. They live in a world apart with many many buffers between them and the unpleasantness of having to struggle for a living. Any emotional turmoil is a pity, but it hardly feels tragic. The scenario is almost cartoonish. I would be more interested in Igby the character if he ran away from an abusive, alcoholic, working class home and went to New York to write or create art.

Or if he ended up in some struggle for the family fortune with his step-father and his desire to destroy the family wealth is tempered when he learns what would happen to your every day working person if he drove an important company to ruin. When he finally ends up with on the street with no money of his own and he’s had his degraded heroin addict love interest taken away from him by his mean spirited estranged brother, I just didn’t care.

I didn’t really feel he was without options and I would have liked to see more of his inner life expressed. After all, he’s had an incredibly traumatic life and he responds to it by being shut down and moping a lot. I wish he could have found a way to express his sense of injustice, at least, if not find someone to confide his feelings in. I wanted to know what was going on with Igby but he kept it all to himself.

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originally posted: 09/13/02 04:15:46
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2002 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2002 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/14/18 Anne the scene when mom dies, what Igby's reaction is, made this 2 stars from one 2 stars
5/28/08 Liza Well concieved quircky coming of age film. I loved it and I usually hate dark comedy. 4 stars
9/22/07 Movie watcher Cynical, empty and hilarious. A dyslexic Catcher in the Rye- what the hell does that mean?! 4 stars
4/01/07 MickT The lead character can't act for shit & it ruined the film. 2 stars
12/16/06 eileen holloran The characters were unrealistic and shallow. story line too fragmented. Lousy movie 1 stars
3/05/06 Simon Some smart dialogue and insight, but it's narcissistic, hollow, blindly dark, uninspired... 3 stars
6/09/05 Rebecca Claire Danes (who I liked in Romeo&Juliet) was unconvincing as a quirky girl 3 stars
3/04/05 Lori Couldn't watch it all the way through. I agree 100% with the EFC review. Total crap. 1 stars
3/03/05 dbx not intelligent at all. but funny to see Claire Danes act like she has read "razor's edge" 1 stars
2/19/05 Captain Craig I rented it for a dollar. It was a waist of a dollar! 1 stars
7/13/04 Mitch Itslightly compares to The Catcher and The Rye to a video 4 stars
6/15/04 Lisa Annoying, dull, characters weren't believable 1 stars
4/22/04 Zeynep I was shocked to see these bad reviews. I loved this movie! It was quirky and had depth. 5 stars
2/11/04 drew paternoster Not verygood, not very bad 3 stars
11/29/03 I've Seen Better Film on Teeth Kieran was fantastic. Pretty funny movie. 5 stars
11/03/03 Jessica Stellar acting by all involved plus great dialogue and heartfelt moments equals great movie 5 stars
9/16/03 Franky wonderfully made independent film, Culkin does a strikingly good job as Igby, note sarandon 5 stars
9/09/03 Popcorn Hunny H.B critics totally don't get this movie. It's what you call "black humor" Look it up. 5 stars
8/04/03 Kia Ora Really good movie! Funny and oh so cold at the same time. 5 stars
7/29/03 Yoshiahu in So Cal Cold and Empty 2 stars
7/09/03 natasha_theobald I was pulled into the story despite myself and found it oddly affecting 4 stars
6/26/03 Steve G This film gave me the opportunity to appreciate the decor of the cinema. 1 stars
6/21/03 Sebastian E. Great movie! 5 stars
4/03/03 rue the whirl if you want feel-good characters, go watch your dingleberries 5 stars
3/31/03 Vitality1 Kieran was fantastic. Pretty funny movie 4 stars
3/22/03 Skankin' inThePit Good movie, the beginning really gets you hooked into it 5 stars
3/18/03 Blabity blah Amazing coming of age film. Great acting. Culkin and Sarandon should have been nominated. 5 stars
3/14/03 Goofy Maxwell Igby's solid--gets Rodney Kinged & still gets play wit 2 fine honeys. 4 stars
3/08/03 Andrew Carden Excellent Coming-Of-Age Film; Culkin & Sarandon are Perfect. 5 stars
3/01/03 wah i want to marry igby. he is a sex god. 5 stars
2/18/03 Lord David Reviewer seems totally incompetent - IGD is aces above average teen flick 5 stars
2/16/03 Steve Campbell I kept hoping he would get hit by a bus... 1 stars
2/11/03 beppy I wonder if the true meaning of all the films you review goes over your head? 5 stars
2/11/03 kei brillent 4 stars
2/10/03 Collegiate Facist Reviewers clearly lack the sophistication to appreciate such a clever, rare film 5 stars
2/10/03 Josh Offbeat film, touching and unusual 4 stars
2/09/03 Alfred Best film that I should have seen last year 5 stars
2/06/03 Blabity blah I loved it. Kieran Culkin should get a nomination for his work. 5 stars
1/24/03 ilikemovies Igby is the best movie of 2002 5 stars
1/22/03 Reini Urban Top 5 2003 (Open Hearts, Secretary, Igby, Good Girl, Rules of Attraction, Solaris) 5 stars
12/19/02 Jack Hey jackass, make sure you get the characters straight before ripping a film. 4 stars
12/17/02 hilary thornton Why did Damien thorne die in the final conflict? 5 stars
11/19/02 Jessica Someone thinks people in general are hateful creatures and decided to make a film about it. 4 stars
11/13/02 Paomi A wonderful film...the reviewer doesn't get it. 5 stars
11/07/02 Stevie J one of the year's best movies... what the fuck is wrong with you critics? 5 stars
11/05/02 Michael Buehler Segments are rather interesting, but overall, disjointed, chaotic, and rather pointless. 3 stars
11/04/02 a viewer obviously funded by an unoriginal rich dick with nothing to say 1 stars
10/09/02 Hal Depressing and cynical, with only a tiny speck of warmth, and it ain't enough. 2 stars
10/05/02 ryan phillippe gets hit by a car and it rules this movie was great. It was fun to watch, and well put together. 5 stars
10/01/02 marco guerra unfortunately not a good film but pretty good acting beside the main character. 3 stars
9/29/02 sarah crapola, suuuuunnn. 2 stars
9/17/02 Chancey Sugarpants Obnoxious crap movie. 1 stars
9/16/02 stacey fucking wicked man, wicked!!!! 5 stars
9/13/02 Lauren not great, but better than all the other crap out there 3 stars
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  13-Sep-2002 (R)



Directed by
  Burr Steers

Written by
  Burr Steers

  Kieran Culkin
  Claire Danes
  Jeff Goldblum
  Amanda Peet
  Ryan Phillippe
  Bill Pullman

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