Kicking and Screaming
1995, R, 98 min. Directed by Noah Baumbach. Starring Josh Hamilton, Eric Stoltz, Olivia D'Abo, Chris Eigeman, Carlos Jacott, Jason Wiles, Elliott Gould, Parker Posey, Cara Buono.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Thu., Feb. 10, 2000
"Twentysomething and fresh out of college" is increasingly coming to define a whole genre of pictures that may trace their lineage either all the way back to The Graduate or simply as far as the recent crop of Reality Biters. For the most part, these films have little that distinguishes them from each other: They are generally intelligent, technically competent musings on the difficulties of significant others or satisfactory career direction. Kicking and Screaming stands out amongst this crop due to its smart dialogue, elegant camera shots, and fine ensemble work. It’s a nice debut piece for director Baumbach, despite the film’s reliance on the twentysomething blues formula. Eric Stoltz, the icon of the genre, is used to good effect here as a perpetual student who moonlights as a bartender who dispenses his insular wisdom and complacent life lessons to an appreciative group of male post-grads. The film focuses on the plight of Grover (Hamilton) and his three housemates and pals, all adrift in their post-graduate angst. It’s "guy stuff" by and large, and although the girlfriends are mostly peripheral characters, they are vibrant and engaging whenever they appear and are a welcome breath of life in the guys’ otherwise dreary existence. Granted, it’s difficult to make the life of a writer (no less, a blocked, would-be writer like Grover) interesting onscreen. So when his girlfriend unexpectedly picks up and goes to Prague to study writing upon her graduation it seems earth-shattering to the staid Grover. This group of actors creates a comfortable ensemble feel, lending a realism often missing from these types of films. I suppose it ultimately says more about me than it does about the movie that I felt my strongest twinge of identification while Grover’s separated father, played by Elliott Gould, rambles on about all the new problems he’s encountering in the dating world. Perhaps a new movie rating system needs to be devised that restricts movie admission according to age, although in this instance, the dividing line should be "under-30" and "over-30."