Hebrew, Greek, Dutch, Portuguese, English - Hearing Impaired, Turkish, Croatian, Romanian, Slovenian, Commentary - English
Deleted scenes - 10 min
Audio commentary - director/actor
Igby Goes Down
20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment .
R4 . COLOR . 94 mins .
MA15+ . PAL
A bohemian likes you... Igby and Sookie get close.
The trials and tribulations of the Bored Upper-Class Kid have become a regular occurrence in American movies, perhaps in part as a way of exploring what happens when a character that normal people can relate to is forced to battle their way through what the majority see as an indulgent, alien world where nobody does anything of note. During the heady 1980s such stories would tend to embrace the world in which they were set before weaving a morality tale that resulted in the main characterís redemption or, at the very least, a lesson learned. But todayís all-pervading cynicism about the bohemian and idle has changed all that; now our hero - unmotivated and confused - has to make his way through a society he knows from the outset is corrupt and valueless, presumably coming out the other side equipped to deal with just about anything life can throw at him.
Thatís a gross generalisation, sure, but as Igby Goes Down plays out you canít help but hear those niggling alarm bells of dťjŗ vu ringing insistently at the back of your consciousness. Youíve seen this all before somewhere, probably small elements of a half dozen films that seem to have come together in the one place here. You also realise that you knew all along where it was going and how things were going to end up. The question, then, is whether the journey, however familiar, was individual enough to be absorbing. And as far as Igby Goes Down is concerned, the answer to that is both yes and no.
Jason ďIgbyĒ Slocomb (Kieran Culkin) is a disillusioned and decidedly bored 17 year-old whose complete lack of interest in the life heís ended up in has resulted in him being thrown out of school after school, much to the annoyance of his well-off mother Mimi (Susan Sarandon) - whoís dying of cancer - and his ultra-smooth older brother Ollie (Ryan Phillippe, revisiting his Cruel Intentions spoilt-brat persona). In frustration, Mimi sends Igby off to military school, where heís persecuted and alienated by the other students.
"Can I offer you a cinema-sized Oreo?"
And so he takes off to New York, where he goes to work for his self-absorbed godfather D.H. Banes (Jeff Goldblum) and enters a circle of very screwed-up people. Along with D.H.ís junkie mistress Rachel (Amanda Peet) and brain-fried artist-turned-drug-dealer friend Russel (Jared Harris) he encounters a girl with the unlikely name of Sookie Sapperstein (Clare Danes), with whom he falls in love. But his ever-competitive brother has his eye on Sookie as well, and Igbyís new world is about to be turned upside down as he tries to come to terms with his past and work out whatís in his future.
The debut feature as a director for Burr Steers, a minor actor who co-wrote this yearís How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Igby Goes Down is, at its best, a sharply observant satire on everything thatís so bad about a bunch of people that, on the surface, seem to have it so very good. And itís bolstered by some superb performances; Culkin is perfect as Igby, Amanda Peet is determinedly unglamorous and takes many risks as Rachel, and Clare Danes puts in a remarkably believable turn as the apathetic Sookie. The big names here are also spot-on; Sarandon is as brilliant as always as Mimi, Goldblum a treat as the sleazy D.H. and Bill Pullman offers his best performance since Lost Highway in the relatively small role of Jason, Igbyís mentally ill father. Whatís missing, perhaps, is a sense of connection with the characters; we watch it all unfold with interest and occasional amusement, but there never seems to be a real connection between the audience and the group of people whose lives weíre sharing; the bridge for that connection should be Igby, but while weíre fascinated by how his story unfolds, we never really care about him. This isnít Culkinís fault - itís just a case of the screenplay not doing its title character full justice.
However, thereís a lot to like in this exceptionally well-acted and very well-made film; its satirical bite is undeniable, and itís only the lack of a real emotional connection with its audience that stops it from delivering the bite and dramatic punch that it undeniably wants to.
A thoughtful Sookie (Clare Danes)
Filmed on Super 35 and screened theatrically at the Ďscope ratio of 2.35:1, Igby Goes Down scores a very decent transfer to DVD in its full widescreen glory, naturally 16:9 enhanced. This is a solid transfer that falls short of greatness in a couple of relatively minor areas; the main problem, ultimately, being a tendency towards excessive contrast that results in a lack of shadow detail where itís most important. However, itís not a critical problem.
The main issue here is digital sharpening, which is something that seems to be common on MGMís PAL DVDs. While not over-the-top, itís presence does seem to have an adverse effect on the picture when our Sony review player downconverts the image to letterboxed 4:3 (the way most will watch this disc). Seen in full 16:9 the quality drastically improves, and the downconversion issues will vary greatly depending on brand and model of player. But itís important to note that such problems rarely occur with other studiosí discs.
Encoded on a dual-layered DVD, the film is split just after the half way point in a reasonable location thatís not too disruptive.
A very dialogue-driven film, Igby Goes Down doesnít really demand much of the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack thatís provided. Dialogue is, of course, locked into the centre channel while music and effects emanate from the front left and right; the surrounds are used for depth and ambience as well as the very occasional discreet effect, but this isnít a show-off-the-sound-system disc by any means. The soundtrack does the job itís supposed to do, and it does it well.
Note that the main 5.1 soundtrack here has been pitch-corrected through the use of time compression - a very good call given the large number of familiar rock and pop songs that appear on the soundtrack. The commentary track has also been corrected, but the Czech-language track has not, making for a handy comparison for those curious about how bad PAL speed-up can be if left untreated! There are no audible artefacts from the time compression process.
The ultra-stylish main menu.
A small, but reasonably interesting, set of extras is provided here, accessed through a truly stunning animated menu system thatís pure class from top to bottom; the scene selection menu screens are especially well done, and the transitions between screens are smooth and inspired.
First up is an audio commentary from director Burr Steers and lead actor Kieran Culkin. Itís an affable, often very informative effort that covers both the technical and practical making of the film and the characters and themes in the script; a good listen for those interested in the facts behind the film. A ten-minute batch of deleted scenes are supplied with optional commentary from Steers; these are letterboxed but non-anamorphic and are of reasonable quality. In Search of Igby is a 16 minute produced-for-DVD behind-the-scenes featurette which makes extensive use of EPK source materials; itís interesting enough for a casual watch, but itís unlikely youíll be back. The Behind the Scenes Photo Gallery offers a series of too-small images presented in a standard video stream that youíll have to pause to peruse. And finally, thereís the theatrical trailer, in 16:9 widescreen with matrixed surround sound.
A good - but not quite great - social satire and coming-of-age story woven into one, Igby Goes Down is largely saved by the all-or-nothing approach of its cast, as well as Steersí lively direction. Itís by no means perfect, but is well worth chasing up for its numerous good points.
MGMís DVD is also good-but-not-perfect, offering an undeniably watchable transfer of the film with good sound and a decent set of extras.