Igby Goes Down (2002)

Genres - Comedy Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Coming-of-Age, Comedy of Manners  |   Release Date - Sep 13, 2002 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 98 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Brian J. Dillard

Although it followed Tadpole and The Good Girl in 2002's "Catcher in the Rye" revival, this urgently cynical picture is a far cry from Gary Winick's sweet fable or Miguel Arteta's tragicomic treatise on good intentions. Playing the rebel without a cause for neither melancholy warmth nor laughs, Kieran Culkin invests his bratty character with a black heart and an air of indifference, both of which he retains even when the credits roll; if this isn't a star-making performance, something's wrong. Meanwhile, a cast as varied in age as it is in reputation helps delineate the ugly truths that shape Igby's outlook. Thus far in his career, Ryan Phillippe has been convincing only when playing toffee-nosed connivers, and here, once again, he proves that typecasting can be a good thing. Meanwhile, Amanda Peet continues to display the deliciously nasty edge that made her role in Changing Lanes such a surprising pleasure. As Sookie, the conflicted love interest, Claire Danes overcomes a series of career missteps to remind us why she mattered in the first place. Meanwhile, old pros Jeff Goldblum and Susan Sarandon navigate their Upper West Side world with icy authority and deadpan comic timing. Confident first-time writer/director Burr Steers, who has acted in films by Quentin Tarantino and Whit Stillman, shows a clearer affinity for the latter director's well-heeled angst, but he never treats his walking-wounded characters with flip humor or contempt. Elegantly acted, impeccably written and stylishly filmed, Igby Goes Down will prove unworthy only for audiences who require an uplifting emotional arc in even the most soul-weary story.