Kicking and Screaming

The title says it all. Another rites-of-passage film, this time about college kids, mostly on the brink of graduation, containing a collection of good- looking slightly dysfunctional characters who are about to be born into the "real" world.

This obviously concerns the 80's generation who have been sufficiently pre- yuppified during their tender youth to continue on their merry way without a worry in the world. No one should be surprised at their devout love of trivia games. Twenty-two year old Grover Cary (Josh Hamilton), however, is disturbed when he discovers that his girlfriend, Jane (Olivia d'Abo) intends to go to graduate school in Prague rather than move to Brooklyn with him where he intends to write his novel. How could she even contemplate such a thing? She suggests that he go to Prague with her, but he won't hear of it.

Taking a more prominent position in Grover's life are his buddies, including such electric figures as Max Belmont (Chris Eigeman), the rich boy suffering pangs of alienation, Otis Cohen (Carlos Jacott), the would-be mechanical engineer who defers further study to work at a video store, and "Skippy" Messing (Jason Wiles), who likes hanging out with the boys, but would prefer to do in in a satin jacket. They all gather together regularly in the Penguin bar, their needs tended to by Chet, the bartender (Erich Stolz), a student who's been working on his degree for ten years. Yes, folks, we're dealing here with a bunch of go-getters.

Grover is experiencing a difficult time, often having flashbacks of his beloved Jane, so he tries to console himself by chatting with his father, playing trivia with his friends, drinking, and sleeping with a freshman.

Grover's father puts in an appearance (for no apparent reason than including a cameo by Eliott Gould), oddly carrying the few possessions left him from his divorce in a couple of cigar boxes. Being a good and kindly father, albeit poor, he offers his Greenwich Village apartment to his son for temporary use. Grover, however, never takes advantage of this offer, eventually becoming distracted by thoughts of Jane (again) and the possibility of flying east to join her. (Am I the only one who noticed that these pieces don't seem to fit? Dad has no cash, but son contemplates European voyage.)

Jane, the girl he loves and who left him to study in the Czech Republic, is also a product of the same period. Whenever she feels she has wasted someone's time telling a dumb story, she compensates by giving them money (loose change) and they tend to do the same in return. These people don't share emotional or moral imperatives with each other, they merely pay for any and all offences in cold cash. The only sympathetic character possessing human qualities is the Bronx Italianite Kate (Cara Buono) who sort of falls for the guys despite (or maybe because of) their brainy complications and has no qualms about admitting openly that she has to work for a living.

The actors, although experienced, merit no analysis from this blocked passage; perhaps some future project will reveal their hidden talents more amply. In reflection, twenty-five-year-old writer/director Noah Baumbach's film debut leaves little more to be said than that this creation is less exciting than Grover's novel, but, unfortunately, it takes longer to get through.

© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett