Archly satirical tale of disenchanted teenage slacker
DIRECTED BY Burr Steers
STARRING Kieran Culkin, Claire Danes, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Susan Sarandon
Opens June 13, Cert 15, 97 mins
Igby (Culkin)?depressed, narcissistic, fatalistic and snide?is this generation’s Holden Caulfield, a slacker prince. Kicked out of most schools on the East Coast, he drops out, much to the fury of his domineering mom (Sarandon). She allows “godfather” DH (Goldblum) to look after him in New York for the summer, but Igby runs loose, enjoying carnal relations with DH’s drug-addled mistress (Amanda Peet), then with ‘nice’ Jewish girl Sookie (Danes). “What kind of name is Igby?” she asks. “It’s the kind of name that someone called Sookie isn’t in a position to patronise,” he retorts. Igby Goes Down is jam-packed with crisp, cynical one-liners, but our young existentialist doesn’t see the light. He loathes his pompous brother (Ryan Phillippe), who’s moving in on Sookie; his godfather’s about to beat him up, and he wishes his mom was dead. Even an atheist misanthropist like Igby has to be careful what he wishes for.
Written and directed by Gore Vidal’s nephew, this is a teen-angst classic. Not as in John Hughes, but as in Dostoevsky-meets-Cobain. Igby hates almost everyone and everything, chiefly the phoneys who constitute his family circle. His wealthy folks make the Royal Tenenbaums seem perfectly functional. As a lover, he’s implausibly successful, and you may find his relentless tone of carping negativity tiresome. “If Ghandi had to hang out with you for any period of time,” sighs his brother, “he’d end up kicking the shit out of you.” But cussing Culkin’s very convincing in the kind of role that’s made Jake Gyllenhaal’s name.
There are ripe performances from the entire ensemble, none better than a slick, smug Goldblum, while Danes reveals hidden depths. Everyone is on medication. Money can’t buy you squat. It’s a very literary piece, where Rilke is ridiculed and pillow talk consists of “You’re a real fucking upper.” You admire the put-downs and quips, while wishing the pace was a fraction less morbid. Nevertheless, this is honed, icy black comedy, with an uncompromising anti-hero. Let Igby take you down.