Oh, man! I can't believe nobody's done this film yet! It's great!

Igby goes down is pretty much your standard rich kid coming of age by rejecting wealth, taking/selling drugs, dropping out of education, having sex with some hot older women and finally growing up flick. Catcher In The Rye v111244531. Not the most inspiring conceit, you might think; and I couldn't blame you.

Here's the thing, though: it's frickin' brilliant. It's brilliant for a number of reasons. It's brilliant because the dialogue is perfectly measured, and feels true; it's brilliant because the screenwriter/director (to whom, one suspects, much of this stuff happened - though possibly with less sex with attractive older women) takes his story absolutely seriously, never patronising his audience or his protagonist; it's brilliant because the music and the cinematography absolutely fits; above all, though, and this is the biggie, it's brilliant because the cast are absolutely phenomenal.

They're so good they need to create some new oscars to accommodate them all; if that can't be done, though, give best supporting actor to Ryan Phillipe or Jeff Goldblum, best supporting actress to Susan Sarandon or (the mind bogglingly beautiful) Claire Danes or maybe even Amanda Peet; and especially, GIVE KIERAN CULKIN THE BEST ACTOR GONG. Don't make me come over there. If he doesn't get it I'll want to know the reason why. The best performance I'd seen before this year is probably Tom Hanks in Road To Perdition, and this knocks socks off him. Culkin is totally committed to the role, is totally immersed and emotionally involved and physically right and sweet and vulnerable but also with a slight frisson of danger and an edge and he's just IT. He's fantastic. If he was any better they'd have to invent a new category called the Best Damn Performance In A Big Hollywood Movie For Absolutely Ages, Probably Since Ray Liotta In Goodfellas And That Isn't Even That Much Of An Exaggeration Award. (It would have to be big for the engraving.) He's really very good. Of the rest Sarandon is the biggest stand-out, I guess, being wonderfully grim and bitchy as Mommy dearest; the character Goldblum plays is gloriously funny -an apparently upright godfather with some serious personality kinks - too.

This is principally a fantastic film in spite rather than because of being a coming of age thing. It would be pretty strong, but ultimately limited, and a little cliched, if it was just Igby's story; but the circle of characters is so convincing and so funny and so sad and so fundamentally sympathetic that it's very much more. It's bang on every time about social conventions, but it isn't a comedy of manners: it's a comedy of characters. And like any decent comedy of characters, it's at root barely an inch from being a tragedy. And that's why Igby Goes Down is a wonderful film. Dang, my fingers hurt.

(you might like this if you liked… Tadpole, Rushmore, most obviously; but also Woody Allen, other Wes Anderson movies… what am I saying? Everybody’ll like it. It’s superb.


Written and directed by Burr Steers

I was given the task of writing a script analysis of Igby Goes Down, based soley on the film itself and not on the script. I really enjoyed the film, although the writing below may not seem testiment to that.
The opening of the film is audio. The snoring is loud and obnoxious and we, the audience, do not know the circumstances of the noises until a few moments in to the film. When we do see picture, we can tell that the home is well furnished, that the inhabitants are upper-class wealthy people. Roses, many pillows, a big bed: luxurious surroundings set the scene for our first impression of the three characters in the room.

The exposition is handled using flashbacks and it works rather well in this case. Most of the flashback content is near the beginning of the story but some of it travels further, even nearing the climax when Igby envisions his father in the loft with him.

When Igby is staying at the hotel on his mother’s credit card without her knowledge and an officer from his military school comes to collect him, his rampage is culled. It is when he is collected from the hotel, when his desired course of action is disrupted, that is when the inciting incident occurs. In fact shortly thereafter, when Igby is in the session with the psychologist, he is snapped out of his own fantasy world and realizes that he cannot keep going on the way he has been; he fights this and does not straighten up his act at that time. This is when the story’s central question is posed: Will Igby straighten out his act and when will this happen?

The first act is a little long as far as convention goes, but this is not a problem. Igby’s character needs back-story, and testament is given to his repetitive destructive behavior before we get into the second act. It gave his character more depth and stopped at the right time.

All the characters are introduced in the first act with the exception of Russell, who I find to be a problematic character. He is introduced in the first scene of the second act, when Igby shows up at Rachel’s apartment to hide out in New York. I find Russell to be problematic in that he seems to slow down the momentum of the second act wherever he occurs. His role can be minimized to fix this. Also during the second act Sookie’s character slows things down to the point of altogether derailing the story. She could be handled differently; the dialogue she and Igby share serve more to impress the audience than to contribute to the story.

The dialogue throughout is cleaver yes, but many times it doesn’t fit and I think to myself, “so what? Yes, you can write, now stick to the point of the story.” The clever little conversations such as the ‘bigger picture Darwinism’ and the ‘you’ll see me in the obits one day’ are too contrived and are trying to show off, taking away from the flow of the film. The characters are quite interesting, but these pseudo-intellectual tidbits of random thoughts take away from the audience’s ability to identify with the characters involved.

Igby is identifiable up to a point. I found the spontaneous sex with different people to be somewhat unbelievable, but other than that, he seems no more misguided than the average Joe Shmo. He is a pathological liar, and yet he can say the most truthful things; he hates his brother, yet he is so alone and scared; he is manipulative, but he has been a tool of everyone around him for his whole life. Oliver is less realistic. His character lacked depth. If more time were to be given to his character this could be solved, but as it stands, I don’t quite know what to make of him.

I actually can sympathize with Oliver and Igby through their father more than anything, as my father was similar to theirs. The father was well developed even though he had a relatively minor role. He tied the flashbacks with the present together nicely and his appearance at the end was fitting. A great connection can be made between people once some childhood commonality as that is discovered. I have a great deal of pathos for their childhood selves.

Their mother and G.H. are more identifiable through third person; we do not like to think that we are like them, but we know people who bare striking resemblance to their cold-blooded calculated demeanor. G.H. draws Igby up a contract and beats him for breeching it. He is someone that cannot see himself for what he truly is, but all who look at him see into the black conundrum of a character who will not be able to keep himself together for much longer. Yes, he is almost impossible, but his own ignorance to who he truly is makes it all work.

Mimi, the mother, is the center of the universe. “Did you even for a second stop to think about how this reflect upon me?” “…Get off the maid, Mimi.” She refers to ‘collecting’ Igby, as thought he is an object, which is what people are to her really, things to be sent in whichever direction she wishes, to do her bidding, or to be sat on as she pleases. She has total disregard for other people’s feelings; in psychology, it’s called psychopathy. I really don’t blame Igby for hating her; I can’t help but identify with her even only through hating her as much as the other characters do.

The subplot centers around Igby’s love interest, Sookie. It is introduced in the first act, at the party in the Hamptons, and is resolved in the climax, as Igby is outside her door begging her to come with him and not to fall into Oliver’s trap. The central question here is really weather or not the age difference between them matters. In the end, it does. This love interest was handled poorly in some parts. It dragged in places and really slowed the momentum.

Igby’s arc of change has several points along the way. When Igby is a boy and his father begins the downward spiral into schizophrenia, Igby is damaged more by the way his mother handles it than his father’s actual illness. From this he begins to hate his mother. As a result of his acting out and getting kicked out of every school he is put in, his mother finally puts him into military school. This is where Igby is not in control and he resolves to escape, seeking to live his life however which way he wants, be it damaging or not. His hiding out in New York sets in motion the events that will change him the most. Dealing with other people is forcing Igby to see the cause and effect of his actions. He realizes he can be hurt; Sookie gets involved with Oliver and abandons Igby and his plan to go to California. He reconnects with Oliver in the end and no doubt their relationship will only improve as Igby matures and learns how to deal with other people and treat himself in a healthy way.

In the beginning we are lead to believe that the story will culminate with Igby and Oliver killing their mother, when in fact, that is not the focus nor the point of the story. This causes confusion as to which point the writer is placing more weight on; the screaming climax of the subplot seems to be more important, as it motivates Igby into confronting his own central conflict. Why, then, did we get back into the scene of Oliver and Igby killing Mimi? This is confusing.

This script will likely find an audience, albeit a cult following that is not the wide consumer audience that films want to succeed with. The cult following would be the type that enjoys the little tidbits of pseudo-intellectual conversation, but for the rest of us, between the pretentious dialogue, the long drag that the love interest causes in the second act, and the confusing muddle of what the climax is supposed to be, it is too fragmented to warrant telling our friends about.

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