A review of “Igby Goes Down” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: **

Rating: R for language, nudity, drug use

Run Time: 1 hour, 38 minutes

 

 

With an eclectic cast and quasi-clever scripting at his fingertips, writer/director Burr Steers takes hold of offbeat comedy/drama, emphasizing the Q in Quirky with mixed results.

Jason Slocumb, Jr., aka Igby (Kieran Culkin), is a contemporary Holden Caulfield.  Imbued with a sense of entitlement and a wicked wit, Igby nonetheless rebels against his privileged New York lifestyle and his highbrow family.  While snooty socialite mom Mimi (Susan Sarandon) and Young Republican brother Oliver (Ryan Phillippe) look on in jaded exasperation, Igby drops out of one fashionable prep school after another, preferring to hide out at his godfather’s (Jeff Goldblum) weekend pied-a-terre. 

Along the way, Igby falls in with an assortment of dubious eccentrics, including his godfather’s trophy girlfriend (Amanda Peet), a terminally hip Bennington dropout (Claire Danes), East Village cross-dressing poseur Russell (Jared Harris), and the specter of his asylum-committed, schizophrenic dad (Bill Pullman), for whom the affluent Park Avenue lifestyle was too much to bear.

“Igby” has all the makings of a delectable black comedy, but the laughs render it unexpectedly flat.  In the hands of the very talented Culkin (younger brother of you-know-who), the somber moments are injected with an emotional verve and heartbreaking sadness.  Privilege isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, especially when familial love and support are all but nonexistent.

The impressive, A-list ensemble includes popular ingénues, no-nonsense stars, and high-profile character players. The narrative virtually ebbs and flows on a tide of individual performances.  Goldblum, Sarandon and Pullman are flat-out excellent, as is (surprise, surprise) bad-acting poster child Peet.  Danes and Phillippe deliver with a self-conscious aura that colors their Gen-X stratum an unnatural “performance” feel.  Dark outweighs light, but “Igby” practically drowns itself in good intentions.