“Igby Goes Down” is the portrait of a disgruntled youth who embarks on his own to learn about himself and come to grips with his life. Writer/director Burr Steers has created a film about a young man who is confused by the life he leads. This modern day “Catcher in the Rye” succeeds on its own merit and tells an unusual story in a darkly comedic way.
“Igby” is successful because of the strength of its ensemble cast, specifically Kieran Culkin as the title character. The young actor, best known for being Macaulay Culkin’s younger brother, truly thrives as a dejected youth looking for direction. Susan Sarandon (“Twilight”) plays Igby’s overprotective and misunderstanding mother easily swayed by her other son, Oliver (Ryan Phillippe, “Deadly Invasion: The Killer Bee Nightmare”), a young Republican whom Igby fondly refers to as a fascist. His father (Bill Pullman, “Chill Factor”) is in a sanitarium so Igby’s godfather D.H. (Jeff Goldblum, “Vibes”) acts as a surrogate, constantly giving Igby money and fatherly advice.
The opening scene features Igby and Oliver suffocating their mother to death. After the initial shock of the scene, the rest of the movie is a flashback, leading up to the murder of Mimi.
The story takes off when Igby runs away en route to a military school after being thrown out of numerous prep schools. His mother wants him to have a proper upbringing and be exactly like his brother. Igby moves in with his godfather’s mistress (Amanda Peet, “Body Shots”) while hiding from his old life. His journey later leads him to fall in love with a college student named Sooki (Claire Danes, “Brokedown Palace”).
“Igby Goes Down” examines life from a different perspective than most dark comedies, sometimes feeling more like a drama. The commentary track provided on the DVD supplies insights into both the director and main actors’ views on the story and making of the film. The disc features deleted scenes that do not really offer much, and demonstrate why they were deleted. Though it is interesting to hear the director’s reasoning behind removing them from the film.
A 15-minute documentary on the making of the film rounds out the special features (which also includes the theatrical trailer) and once again acts as just a basic production documentary of the movie.
MGM’s DVD release of this independent feature contains most of the regulars associated with the big budget releases, which can probably be attributed to the high profile ensemble cast and critical acclaim. Culkin’s performance steals the movie, and he deservedly received a Golden Globe nomination for his efforts this year. While not revolutionary, “Igby’ is original. In a sea of copycats and uninspired films, a truly unique and creative film like “Igby Goes Down” deserves to be seen.