Opening night of the Austin Film Festival and Screenwriters' Conference brought me this little gem, a story of five guys who just got out of college, the three women that float amongst them, and the question that haunts them all, "What the hell am I going to do with my life?"
I wouldn't look to Kicking and Screaming for the answer. Rather, the movie is a hilarious example of what not to do when you graduate. The guys, Chet (Eric Stoltz), Grover (Josh Hamilton), Max (Chris Eigeman), Skippy (Jason Wiles), and the show-stealing Otis (Carlos Jacott), can't seem to give up the college life. They hang out at college bars, woo freshmen, and sneak back into classes. Otis can't even seem to get out of his pajamas.
Women are only half the problem. Jane (Olivia d'Abo) is Grover's lover, but she jets off for Prague after graduation, leaving Grover in despair. Miami (Parker Posey) is Skippy's trouble-prone, flighty girlfriend. And Kate (Cara Buono) is Max's latest attachment, a cafeteria worker he picks up while haggling over an extra potato.
The plot basically follows the series of perpetual indecisions that plague the friends, an ironic reality that most of us seem to face at some point in our lives. The so-called "touching" moments are unfortunately pretty drab, and the mushy flashbacks where Jane and Grover's fledgling romance is built up are real snoozers. The film is rightfully a study of misery. This happiness stuff just gets in the way.
The acting and direction by Noah Baumbach (who also wrote the script) are perfectly dead-on. Carlos Jacott should gain a lot of notice (and at least one of the various movie awards) for his outrageously droll part as Otis. If the script had avoided the over-sentimentality, the film would have been even better. And oddly, a real ending seems to be mysteriously lacking.
Kicking and Screaming pokes fun at the pretense and phoniness of virtually every college clique imaginable. If you're one of those sensitive types, you'll probably be offended at some point along the way. But hey, look on the bright side, at least you'll have it better than these guys.