After a surfeit of
films about fathers and sons, finally a film about a mother and her
sons. In Igby Goes Down the characters are trapped in an
existentialist nightmare. This
is a funny, affecting film that turns into a heavy drama of moral
ambiguity. Mimi (a
persuasive Susan Sarandon) is a domineering and dominating mother of
two sons, sensitive and floundering 17 year-old Igby (Kieran Culkin,
in a magnificent performance), and Oliver (Ryan Phillipe), his older
brother, who appears to be a cold, supercilious, unsympathetic
imitation of Alex P. Keaton (Michael J. Fox) from Family Ties.
Igby, on the other
hand, is a high-IQ mess. When
he was ten years old his schizophrenic father (Bill Pulman)
emotionally imploded before his very eyes. His mother never touches
him or expresses any affection. Finally,
he’s constantly compared with his overachieving brother.
As a result, he feels confused, abandoned, and alone. Despite
his high IQ he gets kicked out of one high school after another. His
only emotion seems to be an all-consuming hatred of Mimi.
He runs away to flounder in midtown Manhattan apart from his
Igby becomes involved
with two older women, Sookie (Clare Danes) and Rachel (Amanda Peet).
Making matters worse, Rachel is being kept by Igby’s
godfather, D.H. (Jeff Goldblum).
Thrown into the mix is Russel (Jared Harris, in a compelling
rendition), a “performance artist” of nebulous sexual orientation
who seems to have some sort of relationship with Rachel, also.
Mimi has problems of
her own, other than trying to control Igby. Although the film is about
Igby, Mimi dominates the story. Even
though she’s off screen most of the time, every scene is influenced
Written and directed
by Burr Steers in an impressive debut, this is a film of eclectic
emotions with snappy, funny dialogue that slowly transitions into the
very serious. By the end
of the movie you’re involved in a story with depth that raises moral
and ethical questions that the film doesn’t presume to resolve.
These are people who ignore the normal moral values of society
and live according to their own brands of hedonism, none of which
seems to bring any pleasure to any of the characters.
Igby Goes Down
carries you through a torrent of feelings, from laughter to poignancy,
and forces you to question values.
It’s a roller-coaster affair that raises emotionally
affecting issues, an entertaining, stimulating film.