The Austin Chronicle

DVD Watch

Reviewed by Kimberley Jones, September 8, 2006, Screens


Criterion, $29.95

With Noah Baumbach's recent Oscar nomination for The Squid and the Whale, his critical legitimacy is now finally catching up to his long-held cult status, one earned for his 1995 debut, this desultory account of the first post-collegiate year in the lives of four men who would be boys. For obsessives of a certain age (in the whereabouts of 30 now), Kicking and Screaming took its place (for me, in a shitty dub off of Comedy Central) alongside Office Space and Bottle Rocket as generation-defining pictures for people who preferred their Gen X served deadpan and with limited pop-culture posturing (except, of course, hat tips to Cormac McCarthy and "Monkeys, Monkeys, Ted & Alice"). So how does it hold up, the arch back-and-forth of these kids treading water in dead-end video-store gigs and oddly affecting affairs with underage girls? Beautifully: The busted-up love between feckless Grover (Josh Hamilton) and Jane (Olivia D'abo, retainer-sexy), told in flashback to Nick Drake and Jimmie Dale Gilmore, has grown more tender with time. For a film that coined the quotable, "I'm nostalgic for conversations I had yesterday," the Criterion Collection's disc is surprisingly thin on fond remembrance and backward-glancing. There are three short, amiable, but not especially illuminating interviews with Baumbach and his three male co-leads: Hamilton, Chris Eigeman, and Carlos Jacott (one kernel tossed is that Baumbach initially wanted to cast his Vassar classmate, the unknown Jacott, as the romantic lead, a proposal the investors soundly shot down). Also included are promo-like bits that originally aired on IFC during the film's premiere at the New York Film Festival in 1995; a smattering of deleted scenes; and an aimless, albeit funny enough, 2000 short starring Jacott and K&S alum John Lehr that never went anywhere. The best reveal? Eric Stoltz's Chet, he of the bartenderly bons mots ("If Plato is a fine red wine, then Aristotle is a dry martini"), was written slapdash just before production, when the hiring of then-indie darling Stoltz was a greenlight-prerequisite. How's that for datedness?

Also Out Now

Julia (20th Century Fox, $14.98): Fred Zinnemann's 1977 Oscar-feted Julia, adapted from the notoriously prickly Lillian Hellman's memoirs, charts the Holocaust-era friendship between Hellman (Jane Fonda) and resistance fighter Julia (Vanessa Redgrave).

White Nights (Sony Pictures, $19.94): The setup – two crossways defectors, one Soviet, one American – might be a slice of Cold War hokum, but the execution – Gregory Hines on tap, Mikhail Baryshnikov handling the balletics – is flawless.

Battlestar Galactica Season 2.5 (episodes 11-20; Universal Studios, $49.98): It's about frakkin' time: The tail end of the stellar second season hits shelves with plenty of time for new viewers to play catch-up before the SciFi Channel launches season three in October.

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