Kicking and Screaming (1995)

A strong feature debut about postgraduation aimlessness that milks hilarity through an array of self-analytical characters who are far too absorbed in their own ennui to really think for themselves, but Baumbach’s clever script does all the hard work for them.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Dir. Noah Baumbach
1995 | USA | Comedy/Drama | 96 mins | 1.85:1 | English
M18 (passed clean) for strong language and some sexuality

Cast: Josh Hamilton, Eric Stoltz, Samuel Gould
Plot: Paralyzed by postgraduation ennui, a group of college friends remain on campus, patching together a community for themselves in order to deny the real-world futures awaiting them
Distributor: Lionsgate Films

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Youth Ennui
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream

Viewed: Netflix
Spoilers: No

Noah Baumbach’s feature debut is one of his best movies.  A charming film about charmless people trying to regain their mojo when it has already been lost to time, Kicking and Screaming is in the tradition of ‘slacker’ type pictures about young adults feeling the paralysis of meaningless existence. 

A group of friends, all guys, continue to hang around their college campus months after graduation, not knowing what to do next.  They wax lyrical about academic subjects that they have taken or want to take again, masquerade as students hoping to take advantage of their campus facilities, and attempt to bed younger freshies. 

They are mostly harmless and aimless folks who are far too absorbed in their own ennui to think for themselves, but Baumbach’s clever script does all the hard work for them, milking hilarity from his array of self-analytical characters who need a listening ear—us, really. 

“What I used to able to pass off as a bad summer could now potentially turn into a bad life.”

Some may find Kicking and Screaming ‘boring’, perhaps even lethargic (well, wait till you watch his Greenberg), but I think it works strongly in a languid, offbeat way.

The dialogue can be overtly-intellectualised with numerous references to academia and pop culture, and the performances rather stilted, so in a way, it is easy to lose interest if you are not on its wavelength (the tone of the opening sequence should already be a good indicator whether the film is for you). 

Some of the film’s more poetic moments come in the form of expressive flashbacks of a burgeoning romance. 

Baumbach’s characters seem unable to adapt to the real world, and they would probably want to kick and scream but are way too apathetic to consider what their emotions might mean.    

Grade: A-



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