Cast & Crew
Jason 'Igby' Slocumb Jr.
Produced by Helen
Beadleston, Trish Hofmann, Trish Hofmann, Fran Lucci, Miggel,
David Rubin, Lee Solomon, Lisa Tornell, Rainer Virnich,
Marco Weber; Directed and screenwritten by Burr Steers
Rated R for language, sexuality and drug content;
Running Time - 98 Minutes
Domestic Release Date
September 20, 2002
by DAVID KEYES
The alienation of American youth knows no restrictions
when it comes to someone like Jason Slocumb Jr. (Kieran
Culkin), a 17-year-old boy who finds himself at the beginning
of "Igby Goes Down" in the midst of a messy personal
war fueled by family, society and culture, sometimes all
in the same breath. What this adolescent but underestimated
slacker faces on his trek towards individual freedom isn't
necessarily anything out of the norm, but his own twisted
interpretation makes it seem that way. Through his eyes,
life is made up of countless losers who spend too much of
their time pretending to be someone they aren't. Jason's
goal (at least during the course of the picture) is simply
to sit around and absorb the simplicities laid out at his
disposal. The only complex details are the disagreements
he faces with those around him, who tilt their heads like
they understand his perspective, holding back the hard truths
that would no doubt send him hurling obscenities at their
seeming disapproval of his choices.
To understand the sometimes eccentric views behind Jason's
attitude towards existence, one must first consider the
source. The lad isn't even called by his first name in the
movie; instead, he is constantly referred to as "Igby,"
a name that his own mother Mimi (Susan Sarandon) passed
onto him out of habit whenever she would catch him in a
lie. Mimi shuffles Igby through schools on the east coast
like a hen who can't keep her chicks in order. She publicly
denounces his behavior and throws the success of his older
brother, the cheeky but stuck-up Oliver (Ryan Phillippe),
constantly in his face. She pops pills at a rate that would
make most drug addicts blush, and she barely acknowledges
the one person who once mattered in the kid's young life:
his own father (Bill Pullman), who is now locked away in
an institution after nearly losing a long battle with his
schizophrenia. The woman's credibility as a mother, and
a supporter, doesn't exactly measure up; in one later scene,
Igby tells a friend that he tends to refer to her by her
first name because, well, "Medea was already taken."
As the movie opens, Igby finds himself, once again, being
displaced from a top school somewhere in the east. Surprisingly,
this particular removal has less to do with his attitude
and more to do with the fact that he's managed to fail every
class he has there (I use the word "surprising"
very confidently, as most movies about would-be scholars
tend to overlook laziness because everyone is more concerned
with negative personalities). This, we immediately gather,
is all part of a routine; Mimi slaps him around, shouts
out angry obscenities, and informs her spawn that he'll
be sent to another school until her learns to accomplish
something. His next vocation (of no choice) is actually
military school, an establishment with Igby haters who provide
the film with its title (although I won't reveal how it
When he manages to break free from his latest "prison,"
Igby takes a detour towards home and winds up in New York
City, the residence of his business savvy godfather D.H.
Baines, who offers the kid a job in remodeling an apartment
for a coworker. The catch? This "coworker" Rachel
(Amanda Peet) is actually D.H.'s mistress, who is convinced
behind drug-induced delusions that the man she's sleeping
with will one day realize how much she means to him. Of
course, Igby is a bystander in this development, but when
he refuses to return home to be whisked away to another
school, he crashes at Rachel's apartment and winds up sleeping
with her. It doesn't end there, either; during a house party
on D.H.'s beach estate, Igby also meets Sookie (Claire Danes),
a fetching and saucy New York college student who may hold
the key to the lad finding his true significance in this
The screenplay was written (and directed) by Burr Steers,
a relatively new filmmaker that appears to be bursting at
the seems with inspiration. His movie is the firm, funny
and delicious coming-of-age endeavor that "Rushmore"
should have been, a chronicle of irony that successfully
permits the audience to identify with the story's sometimes-witless
protagonist. No one can say that they truly admire Igby
for everything that he does, but the events are human and
realistic enough to buy into, and the themes are elevated
by the charismatic performances from all the major stars.
"Igby Goes Down" sure does go down all right,
but not in the negative way that it could have. For that
reason alone, the movie stands as perhaps one of the most
enlightening and refreshing efforts of the year.
2002, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
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