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Volume 68, Issue 19, Friday, September 20, 2002

Arts & Entertainment

'Igby Goes Down' delivers with slick directing effort

By Andrew Beard
The Daily Cougar

Why should anyone care what happens to a character like Igby (Kieran Culkin)?

This is the challenge set forth by director Burr Steers. Igby's first impressions don't exactly help matters. The film opens with his expulsion from another private school adding to a long list of discarded opportunities available through family wealth. He routinely uses drugs, lies, cheats and berates people for no good reason.

With all this against poor Igby, there's no way to care what happens to him, right? Wrong.

Steers, with the help of an all-star cast, molds a solid film that forces the audience to pay sincere attention to Igby's plight.

So why is Igby such a punk? The film offers several characters that might be the cause.

Could it be his mother, played by Susan Sarandon? She's obsessed with the perfect family atmosphere and can't deal with failure. Her children must be model little aristocrats or she goes berserk, literally.

Photo courtesy of United Artists

In Igby Goes Down, Igby, a troubled teen played by Kieran Culkin (right), is, at times, comforted by Rachel (Amanda Peet), a philandering companion.

Could it be his older brother Oliver, played by Ryan Phillippe? To describe him as pompous would be paying him a compliment. He saunters around town boasting of his Columbia University education and treats people by their class distinction.

Could it be his father, played by Bill Pullman? Most likely. It's doubtful that even Shakespeare could've created a more tragic figure. Once a successful businessman, he's now reduced to stacking cigarettes in his desk drawers. 

But this is the one intimate person that Igby doesn't hate.

Igby decides he needs to stray from this cast of characters and heads to New York City. 

He bunks with Rachel, played by Amanda Peet, a sometimes-mistress of his charismatic godfather (Jeff Goldblum), and Russel, a "painter who doesn't paint."

On his route one day, he meets Sookie (Claire Danes). They strike up a relationship despite the obvious age difference, and Igby falls deeply in love with her.

Sookie sends the same signals but is soon seduced into a side relationship with Igby's older brother Oliver. Igby pretends not to know the truth but is quietly crushed.

Soon enough, the foreshadowing of the title Igby Goes Down becomes apparent. 

It's no surprise how Igby escapes his problematic life, but it also involves common sense.

Most directors feel the need to blanket the audience in unrealistic melodrama, but not here. 

This movie is too sophisticated for that.

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