Cinema Signal:

The Juvenile Sex Offender

. "Igby Goes Down"

This is a movie that was put together for crass reasons and it led to a product that is as tasteless as it is ill conceived. The theme of it seems to be to introduce the adult potentials of a young actor by way of an edgy, hot and supposedly mainstream film, to an audience that is going to see how grown up he can be while pretending to be young and impressionable. The formula is tainted with crudity while it puts the object of this fantasy into bed with two beautiful grown up women. The contrived situation is nothing more than cheap exploitation that trades on a hyper valuation of lust. The professional production and a very impressive cast do not make the bad taste or the foul smell of the intentions go away. Its appeal is to the witless and vulgar who might wish they were in the shoes and bedroll of poor little Igby.

Igby (Kieran Culkin/Rory Culkin), essentially, is a disaffected youth, seemingly far too hip and intelligent to pander to a disaffected mother (Susan Sarandon) and disassociated, institutionalized father (Bill Pullman). It would seem that the problems this family is having derive from their wealth, but that's only a symptom of the disfunction of the household.

Heartthrob Oliver (Ryan Phillippe) is his brother, whose shoes Igby would prefer, with his super polish and distant demeanor and haughty affectation in speech and appearance. Oh, yes, and Oliver's easy conquests of all he surveys, as well.

Igby also has the oily and lecherous D.H. (Jeff Goldblum), a wealthy owner/landlord of high priced Manhattan real estate who is Igby's godfather and erstwhile confidant. When Igby decides to head out of his parents' home, he makes do with a bedroll in one of D.H. loft studio, the one with sexy Rachel (ravishing Amanda Peet) as a tenant/girlfried always ready to make a payment for her debt to him, only it's never in money. Igby likes what she stands for, even admiring the chic heroin addiction. He doesn't quite square it with the fact that she has avant-garde artist Russell on the side. When D.H. becomes unhappy about the arrangement and holds out on her fix, threatening eviction and total cut off, she gets strung out and Igby will like her even more.

Then Sookie (Claire Danes) enters the picture to take the idea of youthful conquest a step further and 19 year old Igby is finally living the life of his brother. This continues until Oliver meets Sookie, intruding upon the pair who are on the floor in the bedrole one fine morning and and applies the charm and the machinery of lust. It's as easy and effective for this Lothario as the morning cup of tea.

Igby is pained by the betrayal, both Sookie's and Oliver's, and the realization that she prefers the brother that's closer to her age. At least that's the reason she offers him through her locked door when he comes pleading for her continued sexual attentions and companionship.

The general tenor of lust and immorality tends to wear out any possibility of concern or sympathy, and with that out of the picture, there's not much to keep you in your seat... unless it's the vacuous perversity of it all. It's unrelieved emphasis on casual sex as an avenue to self-identity and as a balm for disaffection, is a portrait of a depraved life style and the coming of age of one who is adrift on a sea of false values.

First time writer-director Burr Steers worked as an actor in "Pulp Fiction" and "The Last Days of Disco". His film comes off as the work of a cynical writer pandering to a audience that's his superficial equal with what he thinks is hip and hot. It's not. It's smug, pedantic and fabricated. Mr. Culkin -- in fact all the Mr. Culkins -- should find vehicles for their skills as actors that better exploit age-appropriate talent than sexual maturity.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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