Burr Steers? What kind of a name is that? Well, I guess it's a normal name if your uncle's name is Gore Vidal. The reason, that I am asking, is that Burr Steers is the writer and director of Igby Goes Down. I am always railing about the lack of good scripts in the films I review, but this film has a great script! It should win Best Screenplay at the Oscars. And this is maybe the best movie I've seen this year. Besides the script, there is a wonderful cast including Kieran Culkin (Igby), Susan Sarandon (his mother), Bill Pullman (his father), Ryan Phillippe (his brother), Claire Danes (his girlfriend), Jeff Goldblum (his godfather), Amanda Peet (his godfather's girlfriend) and Jared Harris (his godfather's girlfriend's friend) . The story revolves around Igby, a 17-year-old who has the most dysfunctional family of all time. His mother is controlling and a pill-head. His father is psycho. His brother is a Republican. His godfather loves money and young women. Igby gets expelled from a new school every year. After all this, Igby decides that he needs a rest and hides out from his family in Manhattan.
There's a slight Royal Tenenbaum feel to this story but it's less surreal and more real. One surreal thing is when the film flashes back to when Igby and his brother are 7 years younger. Magically, Kieran seems to be 10 years old. I'm sitting there wondering how they did this when, duh, I realize that it's Kieran's brother Rory (You Can Count on Me). It is an amazing effect since they look so much alike. Igby Goes Down isn't like High Fidelity where I identified strongly with the John Cusack character. I don't identify with Igby. I'd like to say that I do but when I was 17, I never had sex with Claire Danes and Amanda Peet. Maybe it's just that Jeff Goldblum is in it. I've always had this thing for Jeff Goldblum movies (The Big Chill, The Right Stuff, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, Into the Night, Silverado, Jurassic Park, Independence Day). He is so weird yet good. It's also weird that I mentioned The Big Chill and Into the Night in my last review (White Oleander). But as usual I digress.
Kieran Culkin is great as Igby. He seems to have more acting ability in his little finger than his older brother McCaulay has in his whole body. Claire Danes, who first burst on the scene in My So-Called Life and Romeo + Juliet, is back in a big way after the disappointing Mod Squad and Brokedown Palace. Ryan Phillippe is very smooth as Igby's older, more conventional brother. Susan Sarandon and Bill Pullman have relatively small roles as the parents but show how you can make a lot out of a small part. I recently went on and on about how wonderful Sarandon is (The Banger Sisters) so I won't here. But Bill Pullman is worth a bit of a mention. He is really great but he seems to have dropped off the planet lately. Take a look at Sleepless in Seattle, The Last Seduction or While You Were Sleeping to see what he can do. His part in Igby is very small.
Which brings us back to Burr
Steers. Ok, he's Gore
Vidal's nephew (Vidal has a cameo as Igby's headmaster) so he may have
some writer's genes. But what's he been doing up to now? And he does
a good job with the directing too. Even though not that much
happens in Igby Goes Down, it is riveting. I know it
sounds a bit goofy but I hung on every word of this script. OK, this
review is a little too much of the Geoff-stream-of-consciousness thing
but it's all streaming out of me and I can't stop. It's always a
shock after seeing one so-so movie after another, to see something really
good. Igby Goes Down is really good. Go see it soon.