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Archive for September 19th, 2009

Ferris Bueller’s Year off

Back in 2003, when deciding what film to go and see at the cinema a film staring Macaulay Culkin’s little brother would not have been high on my list however I read the review of Igby Goes Down in Empire Magazine. It described the film as Ferris Bueller’s Year off and compared Kieran Culkin’s eponymous character of Igby to J.D. Salinger’s Holden Caufield. As a fan of Catcher in the Rye I was intrigued by this comparison and went to see the film. Sadly I was in the minority and the film failed to make back its $9million budget on it theatrical release. It was a feature début (and so far only feature) for writer/director Burr Steers who was best know as Roger or “flock of seagulls” in Pulp Fiction.

igby goes down

In fact Igby is a million miles away from Ferris Bueller, while Ferris is a narcissistic hedonist Igby is bordering on misanthropic although they do share a sardonic approach to life. Having been kicked out of every prep school on the east coast Igby spends the summer working for his godfather D.H. Banes (Jeff Goldblum). This is where he first encounters Rachel and Sookie. Rachel (Amanda Peet) is a dancer who doesn’t dance and D.H.’s heroin addicted mistress. Sookie (Claire Danes) is a student who is working as a waitress at a party at D.H.’s house. Not wanting to start yet another school Igby turns to Rachel for help, this and a chance meeting with Sookie shapes his future as he begins living a sort of Bohemian life. Igby is driven or potentially paralysed by an underlying fear that he will one day suffer the same fate as his Farther (Bill Pullman), the only family member he seems to identify with and who is institutionalised following a mental breakdown. The sarcastic and satirical nature of the film (and its leading character) is best expressed by the many interactions with snappy dialogue between the young cast. One of the best examples is the party scene between Igby, Ollie(Igby’s yuppie older brother played by Ryan Pillippe) and Sookie where Igby calls his brother a fascist, (young Republican) and explains that he is studying Neo-Fascism, Ollie corrects him “Economics” Igby’s immediate response “Semantics”.

Kieran Culkin proved himself a great young actor, then took a six year break from the movies, it will be interesting to see how he performs in his two upcoming films. Claire Danes is a great as always. Amanda Peet and Jeff Goldblum are perfect in their parts. Ryan Pillippe excels when bouncing of other actors the way he did with Angelina Jolie in Playing by Heart. The cast is rounded off by Susan Sarandon who is clearly having fun playing Mimi, Igby’s self-absorbed mother . Ultimately it is testament to writer/director an his cast of actors who are all on top form that a film that is cutting, sardonic and satirical manages to be warm, engaging and amusing. We as the viewer forgive or forget that Igby is an ungrateful rich brat and engage with him as a vulnerable and witty young man. The film ends with a sense of hope and also my one real point of criticism. Why do they use a horrible cover version of “The Weight” by Travis and not the excellent original by The Band? If the use of one song is the only thing I can find to criticise about the film it must be good!

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