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Video Reviews

Reviewed by Henri Mazza, June 21, 2002, Screens

Kicking and Screaming (1995)

D: Noah Baumbach; with Parker Posey, Eric Stoltz, Josh Hamilton, Olivia d'Abo, Carlos Jacott, Chris Eigeman, Jason Wiles. What happens after you graduate from college? Nothing, according to this (and just about every other) mid-Nineties indie film. What separates Kicking and Screaming from the rest of the Gen-X genre is that it teaches its lesson well. Sure, the camerawork is simplistic, there isn't much of a plot, the ending leaves you wanting, and the characters incessantly dissect every little thing in circles and circles, harping on the most miniscule details of life and making the same old lame pop-culture references. But then, that's the whole point: When nothing's happening, and you can't be sure if anything good will ever happen again, there's nothing left to do but celebrate each moment, analyze it, get nostalgic for it, then move on to the next moment. Baumbach's second effort (after the fumbling Highball and before the underrated Mr. Jealousy), Kicking and Screaming chronicles the moments of four friends during their first year out of college. As the title suggests, they are all clinging desperately to the memory of their college days, stuck in a sort of not-quite-an-adult rut. Grover (Hamilton) is incapable of accomplishing anything but missing his girlfriend Jane (d'Abo), who left him for Prague. Otis (Jacott) can't bring himself to board a plane to grad school; he's too busy wearing pajama tops as dress shirts and looking up "blow job" in the dictionary. Skippy (Wiles) goes so far as to re-enroll in school so that he can take some of the classes he's afraid he missed out on, and Max (Eigeman) just can't get over the fact that, prior to graduation, he was "Max Belmont, English major," and now he does nothing. The brilliance of Kicking and Screaming is that, though the characters may be depressed and stagnating, the script is so cleverly honest about their depression and stagnancy that you can't stop smiling. As Grover and Max walk through campus discussing strategies for getting a job, a random student crossing campus waves excitedly to them and says hi. When Max waves back, Grover asks, "Do you know that guy?" "No," Max answers. "He's a freshman. They say hi to everyone." And then you laugh, 'cause nothing helps break the tension of those post-college blues better than making fun of freshmen.

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