Kicking And Screaming is one of my great obsessions. It’s my Citizen Kane, it’s my “Stary Stary Night”, it’s my Revolver. It’s my Sound And The Fury, my first sip of alcohol and my first time hearing “Stairway To Heaven.” It’s my favorite form of art/entertainment that I’ve ever come across. Paintings, albums, books, movies; none of them compare to how much I have become completely involved in everything Kicking And Screaming over the past few years. My lone VHS tape (sans cover) has been the only thing that I have had to keep my buzz alive since my roommate Jim first popped the movie in late one night on University Hill in Boulder, Colorado. I had just finished watching Annie Hall and my lethargy still needed fuel for its fire. Jim put the movie in and by the time Olivia D’abo’s character, Jane, tells a guy at a party that she can’t dance with him because she finds him “irritatingly attractive”, I was hooked. Like Josh Hamilton recollects in the amazing extras of this DVD, it was a movie whose characters talked the way we thought we talked, but later found out was the way we wanted to talk. Imagine the precociousness of Dawson’s Creek with scotch, cigarettes, sarcasm, crossword puzzles, and believability.
Kicking And Screaming is about four friends who graduate from college and find themselves living in the same town that they had spent the last four years. Grover, who is played by the amazing Josh Hamilton, finds himself alone when his girlfriend Jane, played by Olivia D’abo, leaves for Prague after graduation. While the movie is filled with jokes and sarcasm and one-liners that you’re bound to use in everyday conversation, it’s generally a morose movie that anyone who has graduated from college can identify with. It’s about what the hell we do with ourselves in a world that we think we know. When we find out we don’t know that world at all, we’re confused. We’re bitter. We indulge in our asinine and superficial problems and truly believe that they are important. Maybe they are. Maybe they aren’t. Who knows?
The acting is flawless and the ensemble seems as though they actually spent four years going to college together to rehearse their roles. They were born to play their parts and Baumbach’s writing and directing is as sharp as can be for a first time writer/director. (Baumbach would later go onto co-write The Life Aquatic and write and direct last year’s brilliant The Squid and the Whale).
The movie is a talkfest, but includes some of the best dialogue you could expect from a movie about college students. This is no National Lampoon’s. How many times have you heard a friend say something or been part of a situation that you thought, “Man, this could be in a movie”? This is exactly what Baumbach and co-writer Olvier “Bo” Berkman did. It’s a movie full of experiences from Baumbach and Berkman’s years at Vassar. It is by no means autobiographical, but it’s “Let’s throw our drunken conversation into a movie” aesthetic makes your root for it for all the times you’ve had the same idea. But the movie is not a bunch of dialogue glued together with no plot. It’s extremely heartfelt, funny, and tragic. Baumbach’s use of flashback will leave you breathless each time Jane and Grover’s romantic history is reveled.
This movie hasn’t been in print for a while and its DVD release seemed lost in the wind. Thanks to the amazing Criterion Collection, Kicking and Screaming is now out on DVD with some amazing extras. The digital transfer of the movie looks excellent, the interviews with Chris Eigeman, Josh Hamilton, and Carlos Jacott are very insightful and are a must for a fan of the movie. The short film Conrad Aand Butler Take A Vacation directed by Baumbach is hysterical.
I can’t recommend anything in this world more than this movie. Ever since I wrote a story about a Q&A session with some of the cast members last winter, I’ve found many people like me who have come to enjoy and obsess over it as much as I have. Watch it, enjoy it, and hopefully there are more of you out there that have been waiting for this as long as I have.