2002 is the year of Kieran Culkin. After a rock-star performance in the one great film this year that everyone missed -- The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys -- Kieran Culkin delivers another knockout performance as a rebel without a clue or a cause in Igby Goes Down.
Igby Goes Down tells the tale of one boy's rebellion against the 'old money' ways in which he was born. Igby Slocumb (Culkin) lives within a quirky family unit complete with a schizophrenic father (Bill Pullman) - whose last episode earned him a one-way ticket to the funny farm years back, a self-absorbed, Mommie Dearest of a mother (Susan Sarandon), and a repugnant Young Republican reptile of a brother (Ryan Phillippe). His constant attempts at searching out a better life away from his family's stifling dysfunction lead to a number of high school expulsions and an abnormal amount of prescription sedatives for his mother.
After flunking out of yet another prep school, Igby is sent to a Midwest military school. From there, he goes on the lam and lands in New York, where he secretly hides out at his avaricious godfather's (Jeff Goldblum) weekend retreat and hangs out with a deviant cast of characters including his godfather's secret lover (Amanda Peet), the incurably jaded Sookie Sapperstein (Claire Danes), and the rogue artist Russel (Jared Harris). As the world comes crashing down during Igby's spiritual quest, the questions about family, friends, lovers, and enemies come full circle as he keeps himself from "going down" one final time.
Crafted as part character study and part ensemble comedy, Igby Goes Down boasts both deft character development and an intriguing storyline. Unfortunately, the abundance of interesting players orbiting Igby leads to the film falling just short of being one of this year's best movies.
The entire production might better have been broken up into unique storylines encompassing key characters and leading to key revelations about Igby's own path of redemption (see Jesus' Son). Instead, we are only given a few frustrating glimpses into those possible avenues and are left short on the true meaning of the those key people standing along Igby's yellow brick road.
The ensemble cast of Goldblum, Peet, Harris, Danes, Phillippe, Sarandon, and even Pullman (in his five minutes of screen time) all deliver exceptional displays of humanity throughout the spectrum. But despite the standout performances from all parties, a stellar soundtrack full of poignant words and music guiding us along Igby's journey, and steady direction courtesy of first-time director Burr Steers, Igby Goes Down bears a worthy ideology but never conveys a full picture of Igby.
DVD extras include a full-length ocmmentary with director Burr Steves and Culkin, plus deleted scenes and a featurette.
Igby's mom sits down.