Kicking and Screaming (1995)


Food: I got to try the famous Eataly for the first time this weekend – a long time coming! I went with three other friends, and so we decided to split some of the appetizers and a bottle of wine. We got a bottle of the red Pinot Noir, the “crostone” which was a bruschetta with goat cheese, fig and honey, and the Burrata. For the main dish, I had the regular spaghetti pomodoro which was so good. Due to the quality and freshness of the food, it was so filling, but never left you feeling overstuffed and heavy.

Film: Before there was Will Ferrell scolding young children on a soccer field in a velour jump suit, there was “Kicking and Screaming” by Noah Baumbach – his directorial debut in 1995.

This is the story of a group of recent college graduates, who are struggling to kick off into the next stage of their lives. The looming future seems overwhelming, but clinging desperately to their collegiate years seems embarrassing (as we see with one unimpressive character named Chet, who has been in college for 10 years working on his thesis, and bartending at an on-campus pub, played by Eric Stoltz). We meet Grover, Max, Otis, and Skippy (respectively, Josh Hamilton, Chris Eigeman, Carlos Jacott, and Jason Wiles) who meander around their graduation party, speaking in clever prose about their lack of plans. The one character with a clear next step is Grover’s girlfriend, Jane (Olivia d’Abo), who will attend a writing program in Prague. Grover declines her suggestion to join her, and spends the rest of the film agonizing over his decision, listening to her voicemails and reliving their first encounters. Conversely, Skippy’s girlfriend, Miami (the iconic Parker Posey) is experiencing her senior year of college, and does not yet have to bear the heaviness of “true” adulthood.

Entering the Baumbach film scene at his beloved “Frances Ha,” and enjoying the collection of his work from 2012 onward, it is interesting to visit his previous filmography and understand the way he has grown as a writer and director, as well as, how his perception of the world, people, art, and aging has informed his films throughout his life. He has a knack for capturing an exceptionally specific crowd at a specific time in the world, by way of unique cultural references and naturalistic dialogue.

“Kicking and Screaming” transports you directly to the mid-nineties, and allows you to be a fly on the wall of a group of friends who hang out at coffee shops and book stores, dwell on the concept of existential crises and enjoy philosophical debates, but most notably, have enough privilege to de-prioritize their own ambition – trusting that their intelligence will lead them to the right career path eventually.

Coming from Baumbach at the ripe age of 26, it feels like such a personal work depicting his own post-college years. It is a little messy, and meandering, but that aligns so well with the general ennui of all the characters. Incorporating such articulate, chummy personalities, we get subtle and familiar comedic moments throughout. It is not a standout or overly memorable piece alone, but I consider it a charming and impressive jumping off point in the scope of Baumbach’s career thus far and maintains relevance against the test of time. The ending, though, is one of the most true-to-life displays of human nature and the dissonance between the heroism we want to have in us and the effort we will actually put into being that person.

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