Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Kicking and Screaming

You know what makes me crazy? The fact that many of you probably clicked on this link and expected to see that suck-ass Will Ferrell soccer movie. There should be a law about naming something totally crappy the same thing as something totally awesome.

And awesome is what Noah Baumbach's 1995 ode to the graduating college student is. A big, heaping bowl of awesome that has become the most genuine of cult classics. No one saw it in the theatres. It came out before the advent of dvd's. I'm betting that most people caught it like I did, on late-night showings on cable. It's one of those movies that gets better on repeated viewings. I would catch 40 minutes here, 25 minutes there, and I was eventually given the vhs version by the roommate I lived with in Berkeley after graduating from UC Davis.

This film will undoubtedly appeal largely to those who have experienced the same post-college paralysis I went through. Put simply, it is my generation's The Graduate. I don't care if that sounds pretentious. This is a great film that perfectly captures the aimlessness and terror of the purgatory between student life and adulthood.

If you didn't struggle with the transition from college, it won't appeal to you quite as much. If you're not yet college age, you will most likely think this movie is "hella boring" unless you have an especially well-developed sense of humor. In other words, if Transformers 2 and New Moon are the pinnacle of filmmaking for you, go ahead and skip the rest of this blog.

The plot's pretty irrelevant, but if you must know, it starts with the university graduation of a group of four friends with fairly ridiculous names: Grover, the sensitive writer, Skippy, the adolescent who refuses to grow up, Max, the sarcastic hipster, and Otis, the neurotic mess. Although they've gotten their degrees, they aren't yet ready to leave the comfort and routine of higher education. They attend dorm parties, re-enroll in classes, and try to avoid entering the real world at all costs. In other words, they're leaving college...wait for it...kicking and screaming.

Chris Eigeman's Max is a sarcastic, narcissistic hipster who gets off some of the best lines, such as noting that getting in a parking altercation with a guy whose pickup truck bumper sticker reads "I'd rather be bow hunting" isn't a great idea, reasoning "This is bad. He'd already rather be bow hunting, so any additional aggravation..."

However, Carlos Jacott's Otis steals every scene he's in. He's got the perfect blend of neurosis and childlike innocence. He accidentally packs the t.v. remote when he leaves for his job in Milwaukee. He refuses to leave the house until he knows the fate of a stained shirt on a detergent commercial. He wears pajama tops under sport coats.

What makes the movie something special is Baumbach's ear for dialogue. It's no coincidence that the cover of the Criterion dvd is just a series of quotes from the film. One of the largest motivations for this blog is in the hopes that more people see one of the most quotable movies of the last 20 years so that when I say something like "Go away, Cookie Man!" people high five me instead of looking at me like I have two heads.

Two more reasons to check out Kicking and Screaming: There's a delightful, believable romance between Grover and Jane, (played by the older sister from The Wonder Years), so it's not a total dude's movie. The other is that it features one of the 90's most enduring and underrated songs, "Bad Reputation," by Freedy Johnston. It fits perfectly during the credits of one of the 90's most enduring and underrated films.

Nolanometer final grade: A-


Paula said...

Nolan! I think you first introduced me to this movie when we lived together, and then this blog post inspired me to re-watch. I feel like I'm going through the process all over again in my late 20s--from semi-adulthood to like, totally actually adulthood. scary. Anyway it was just as good the second time around! Thanks for the reminder!

xoxo p

p.s. Cookie Man. . . Pro Life?

Nolan said...

You see, you mock me, but I told you there was something going on here!

Thanks, Schmaula! Good luck on your new transition!