Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Kicking and Screaming

1995, US, directed by Noah Baumbach

Kicking and Screaming is unavoidably reminiscent of Diner (for the 1990's generation), given the echoes of both plot (a group of mostly male college friends attempting to come to terms with the post-college world) and tone. There's an undenial sadness in the eyes of these young people, sure that their lives will inevitably be somehow less exciting - for better and worse - than those of at least some previous generations (one character wishes he were about to go to war - then thinks better of that and wishes instead he was about to retire after a lifetime of meaningful work; the two seem equally exotic).

There's also that Fitzgeraldian worry that everything post-college will "savour of anti-climax", given the way that the college experience has been framed. Although the film meanders a little in the first twenty minutes before finding its bearings, writer-director Noah Baumbach displays a sure touch with dialogue from the first scene (though there's a mannered air to some of the lines, there's also a warm humour on display). The film acknowledges its own indulgence in triviality in amusing ways, and in between the catty exchanges there's a slow, almost imperceptible accretion of more meaningful commentary on a particular post-80's, pre-Internet generation. Although the performances are uniformly fine (and generally quite brilliantly deadpan), Olivia d'Abo is especially notable: she's never been lovelier, or better, at least on the big screen, and there's a sweet poignancy in her final scene that perhaps defines the overused descriptive 'bittersweet'.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States