Meet Igby Slocumb. He's an angry, rebellious and sarcastic seventeen-year-old at war with the stifling world of "old money" privilege into which he was born. Igby's life and family seem one way on the surface, but he's figuring out things are completely different underneath. His father, Jason, is away "recuperating from life" after a sad slide into schizophrenia. His mother, Mimi, is fierce, distant and self-absorbed, with a long-term dependency on "little peppies" to get her through the day. And his older brother, Oliver, is a shark-like young Republican on the fast track to materialism at Columbia University. All in all, Igby figures there's a better life out there, and therefore, sets out to find it. After flunking out of yet another prep school, Igby is sent to a Midwest military academy, and from there, with his mother's pilfered credit card, he goes on the lam. His darkly comedic voyage eventually leads to New York, where he hides out at his godfather's weekend pied-a-terre. Avoiding his family, Igby falls in with a host of questionable characters, including his godfather's trophy girlfriend, her flamboyant pal Russel, and the terminally bored Sookie Sapperstein. In his quest to free himself from the oppressive dysfunction of his family, and in his search to figure out what he wants for himself, Igby's struggles veer from comic to tragic in an ultimately noble attempt to keep himself from "going down."
Igby Slocumb (Kieran Culkin), the sarcastic preppy 17-year-old protagonist of "Igby Goes Down," is a contemporary Holden Caulfield engaged in a flailing search for truth, beauty and the authentic after fleeing military school and hiding out in New York. The movie is a darkly funny exploration of American upper-crust malaise viewed through Igby's merciless eyes, and Mr. Culkin's Igby, alternately smart-aleck and vulnerable, is pitch perfect. Susan Sarandon as his bitter, social-climbing mother, Ryan Phillippe as his yuppie older brother and Jeff Goldbum as his shark of a godfather are almost as fine. The movie suggests that as much of the chill of today's Darwinian social climate filters down the ladder, it just as surely seeps upward. — Stephen Holden
2002-09-13 | Stephen Holden | Read the New York Times Review of Igby Goes Down