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“What kind of name is Igby?”
“It’s the kind of name that someone named Sookie is in no position to question.”

I pity any poor kid who has to go through high school, let alone the rest of his life, named Igby. The only place such a strange name would fit in comfortably is within the context of this strange film, which perhaps concentrates on being weird a little too much. The end result is strange to say the least, not that it directly translates into a less than enjoyable film.

Igby Goes Down
Movie
Young Igby (played by Kieran Culkin to perfection) is a bit of a troubled teen. He’s been kicked out of various private schools for being a bit too smart for his own good, filled with apathy and cynicism that would only ever get him into a whole host of troubles. His mother (Susan Sarandon) is a domineering cow who always seem to favour Igby’s older brother, Olivier (Ryan Phillippe in another version of a self-portrait), himself a bit of an oddball with a penchant for republicanism. Igby’s father (Bill Pullman going all crazy on us) suffers from schizophrenia and is no longer around. Then there’s Igby’s surrogate father, (Jeff Goldblum) who likes to cheat on Igby’s mum with his young, drugged-up mistress (Amanda Peet). Last but not least in this hairball of zany characters is Sookie Sapperstein (Claire Danes) who, like Igby, has nothing but contempt for most of the world and therefore befriends the little guy pretty quickly. Might I say, how ironic it is that Danes’ character is called Sookie, since she is notorious for her dramatic crying throughout her short career.

The film is a loose translation of Catcher In The Rye, with Culkin’s Holden-like character pointing the way. He’s meant to be a kid who learns a lot during the movie in true coming-of-age style, but really there’s not a lot to suggest he learns anything he didn’t already know. After all, he’s a smart kid. Either that or we just couldn’t really care what actually happens to him.

With such an eccentric bunch of characters you could be forgiven for thinking there would have to be some interesting situations arise every now and then, with poor Igby right in the thick of it. Well, Igby is well and truly in the thick of it but it seems the writers are content for him just to wander from location to location and running into trouble. He must deal with his father’s breakdown as a child, his stepdad’s mistress deciding she wants to “play”, his stepdad going all crazy and beating the hell out of him (which is only greeted by more apathy on behalf of Igby) and his mother’s impending death from cancer. How he deals with the latter is strange to say the least.

Igby Goes Down
It is incredibly difficult to figure out the worth of this film. It’s not the most lighthearted piece of material going around, nor will it have you reaching for the tissues any time soon. The dialogue is sharp at times but then other instances are more Dawson’s Creek than David Mamet. You may care about what happens to Igby but then will probably realise he’s just going to cop it and move on with his strange little life no matter what.

The performances overall are quite good. Culkin has some real poise here and steers away from being just another smart-alec kid with a grudge against anyone and anything. Sarandon is quite convincing as an overbearing pain, while Goldblum relishes the chance to maintain his left-of-centre status, teaming up with an always impressive Amanda Peet to perfection. The rest of the cast a serviceable but this is really Culkin’s flick. It might not be the best of recent times and it surely won’t stick around in your mind after you’ve seen it, but for something different then it’s worth a look. I’m sitting on the fence with this one as I’m not entirely sure what to make of all of it. Let’s hope you pick it up and make your own decision.

Video
The 2.35:1 presentation is surprisingly good, with lower budget, less mainstream films often suffering the fate of a less than perfect transfer when it comes to DVD. But this one is quite good, with a sharpness that rivals most of the new releases. Colours are deliberately muted to visually describe Igby’s drab little world, but the occasional splash of anything vibrant is rendered extremely well. Grain is evident here and there but there are no signs of any aliasing problems on this perfectly clean print. Overall this is a pretty darn good effort.

Igby Goes Down
Audio
For a dialogue heavy film you probably won’t get much better than this, a Dolby Digital 5.1 track that does it’s best to keep your ears interested throughout. Dialogue is always clear, positioned mainly in the centre channel and branching out every now and then to the left and right for effect. Surround use is minimal save for some ambient sounds here and there and snippets of music at times. The music itself pumps out of the speakers quite well, with the pop songs chosen not only fitting in quite well with the tone of the film, but also bouncing around the rears to cover the lack of any action from the rest of the soundtrack back there.

Extras
The disc contains several extra features to keep you interested after the end of the film. The first supplement is a director’s commentary with first time Director Burr Steers and Kieran Culkin. Star commentary’s aren’t as common as those with the director so the combination of the two is a welcome move. Culkin seems quite comfortable as he and Steers talk about anything and everything with a bit of a sense of humour. The highlight is early on when they both reveal that a girls school interrupted shooting when they found out Ryan Phillippe was across the road.

A featurette entitled In Search Of Igby looks at the making of the film, with the obligatory interviews and clips from the film interspersed with real behind the scenes footage and words from those in the crew. It may end up being a little too congratulatory to be any good but there is some value here in amongst the 16-minute running time.

A deleted scenes selection is also included, as one big piece, with the option of a director’s commentary to accompany the visuals. Steers is incredibly candid about each of the scenes and their effect on the film, making this collection worth a look despite not being able to select them singularly.

Rounding out the collection is a behind the scenes photo gallery in slideshow form and the original theatrical trailer, which plays on the quirky name given to its main character. In all there is enough here to play with for a while after the film has ended, at least.

Igby Goes Down
Overall
I really don’t know about this film. There’s probably enough interest throughout to lift it above the average fare but the film just might not have enough focus to be anything really decent. The video and audio are quite good while the extras are of reasonable quality, making the disc worthy of a rental at least. Check the film out and see whether all the quirk and absurdity is right for you.


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