Noah Baumbach’s recent film While We’re Young has just hit theatres, and if you’re not familiar with him you should check out his work. He is a master of darkly cynical wit, with acclaimed films such as Greenberg, Margot at the Wedding, Frances Ha, and The Squid and the Whale. If you liked any of those, you’ll like this! His film debut is 1995’s Kicking and Screaming, which premiered at the New York Film Festival. At 25 years old, this debut shows not only shows the seeds for his future work, but also proves to be an excellent coming-of-age film.
Kicking and Screaming revolves around the lives of a group of male friends who meander aimlessly in their college town after graduating. Like The Graduate, Kicking and Screaming deals with the awkward time that follows after leaving school and entering “the real world”. You leave that safe bubble of comfort only to be thrusted into the unknown world of endless job searches and having to pay your own bills. “What I used to able to pass off as a bad summer could now potentially turn into a bad life.” One character laments. The guys are smart and articulate, and consistently engage in spars of verbal wit throughout the film. Baumbach seems to elevate this aimless brainy small-talk into something more, a statement even. While there isn’t much “plot” per se, since it is a character-driven film about characters who are stuck, it still manages to engage for the most part.
While Kicking and Screaming generally revolves around the lives of male characters, there are several interesting and well-written female characters. (Including a young Parker Posey) While they aren’t delved into as much as they could be, all of the women in the film generally feel like their own and a real person, not necessarily a side-arm to the male leads. But there’s one female character, Kate, Max’s girlfriend, who is surprisingly revealed to be 16 years old. A 16 year old high school girl dating a 24 year old college graduate…may be slightly uncomfortable to some.
Kicking and Screaming is now 20 years old, but is still relatable despite being about the crisis of Generation Xers. (It also holds up to the popular Generation X comedy-dramas such as Singles and Slackers) While they do complain about student loans and having no money to pay for groceries, in 2015 (at least coming from an American perspective) financial burden is a lot harder on postgrads today. This group is fortunate to be able to afford to be so aimless. “I wish we were just going off to war. Or retiring. I wish I was just retiring after a lifetime of hard labor” the character Grover says. I found this hilarious because one of my friends is always telling me she wishes she was retired. Not much has changed in the feelings of school graduates.
Also, this film has what is probably one of the most wonderfully cheesy and romantic pick-up lines (or pick-up monologue) ever. Grover says to a girl he’s been getting to be friends with and has a crush on “Ok, the way I see it, if we were an old couple, dated for years, graduated, away from all these scholastic complications, and I reached over and kissed you, you wouldn’t say a word, you’d be delighted, probably, but if I was to do that now it’d be quite forward, and if I did it the first time we ever met you probably would hit me.” “What do you mean?” Jane replies. “I just wish we were an old couple so I could do that.”
If you like any of Noah Baumbach’s work (and if you haven’t seen his films before I suggest you do so!) you will definitely enjoy Kicking and Screaming. Or if you enjoy character studies driven by witty and introspective dialogue, Kicking and Screaming is full of (seriously…I wish I could share all the great quotes but there’s not enough room) fantastic lines and monologues that will completely draw you in to their world.
Caroline hails from the home state of her hero Bruce Springsteen. Some of her favorite films are Amadeus, King Kong, When Harry Met Sally, Raging Bull, The Godfather, Jaws, and An American Werewolf in London. Her absolute favorite will always be The Lord of the Rings trilogy. 70s/80s era Al Pacino and Robert De Niro are her faves. She blogs even more about her film obsession at cinematicvisions.wordpress.com.