TITLE: Igby Goes Down
AUTHOR: Burr Steers
CIRCA: Present DayLOCALE: New York CityActively writing since high school, Christine won a screenwriting fellowship leading to her studies at UCLA's School of Film/Television. There, she was able to win a Scholarship from the MPAA (Motion Pictures Association of America). Christine then graduated earning a Bachelor's Degree with a concentration in Screenwriting. Since graduating, she has written and produced an independent feature, The Iron Man (2006) and has written more screenplays for the company. Her work will be featured in The Amor Fati and Rumble Magazine. Currently, she is fond of the failings of people because it makes them interesting and awake.BUDGET: Low
GENRE: Drama/Dark Comedy
PREMISE: A rebellious teenager begins his slow dissent into a nervous breakdown, lost and suffocated by the unbearable weight of the repressed frigidity of his Upper East Side family, never losing his sarcastic sense of humor along the downward spiral. A modern day coming of age movie.
MIMI SLOCUMB (late 30s), unconscious, slowly suffocates as a plastic bag covers her face. Her two sons, OLIVER (19) and IGBY (17) sit calmly next to her. In regards to his mother’s rather time-consuming death, Igby simply remarks, “It’s all the fucking tennis.”
FLASH BACK to when Oliver and Igby are young children spending time with their father JASON (40s), an easy going man who doesn’t seem to have a care in the world. Oliver, the more stern version of his father, inquires as to when he will go back to work. Jason deflects the question. The family is having dinner with Mimi and Jason sitting at opposite ends of the table. Mimi, frigid and uptight, rides Jason on his physical appearance at the dinner table. Jason retaliates by stripping down naked at the table. Only Igby gets a kick out his father’s antics. Mimi, on the other hand, gulps down a “little peppie” pill to calm her prickish nerves. One day as a child, Igby goes into the bathroom and witness his father’s nervous breakdown in the shower.
FIVE YEARS LATER as Mimi bears through another one of the principal’s meetings as Igby’s antics causes him to get kicked out of a prestigious prep school. She decides to send Igby off to Military School.
Igby’s memories of military school consist of getting stoned or getting the crap kicked out of him by a bunch of snotty upper class men with the ends of broom sticks.
Igby, clad in uniform, Mimi, and D.H. (40s), a wealthy businessman and also Igby’s Godfather, are having dinner. D.H. pontificates on the importance of discipline and hard work and offers Igby work over the summer at the Hamptons.
Mimi pulls strings to get Igby into another prep school prompting Igby to run away. He goes to a hotel where he is caught doing drugs by his former military lieutenant.
Upon his return, Igby goes with D.H. to the Hamptons to work at his loft. D.H. regretfully informs Igby that Mimi has cancer to which Igby replies, “Your house…it’s on the beach right?”
At the loft, Igby meets D.H.’s “tenant”, RACHEL (20s), a beautiful artist. Igby can’t help be impressed by D.H.’s pick in “tenants”. At one of D.H.’s party, Igby goes out for fresh air from the stuffy blue bloods, to find SOOKIE (late teens), a pretty, albeit sassy girl who much to the disdain of Igby, seems to hit it off with Oliver.
Igby once again runs away from the clutches of his overbearing Ice Queen mother to the loft. At first Rachel is reluctant to reveal the nature of her and D.H.’s relationship but capitulates with the yearning of her friend, RUSSELL (30s), a bohemian performance artist type, who incidentally wards off anyone snooping around looking for Igby. And during his stay, much to Igby’s surprise, Rachel engages Igby to sexual trysts.
While out selling random junk on the streets, Igby runs into Sookie. They run off to the park and share a joint and spark an oddly casual romance. One night as Igby brings Sookie back to the loft, he walks in on D.H. and Rachel, catching D.H. with his pants down, literally. Terrified of the repercussions of aiding and abetting D.H.’s Godson, Rachel lashes out by beating up Igby. Luckily, Sookie comes to the rescue and soothes him with affection. Igby sleeps with Sookie and reveals to her that he is awaiting his inevitable breakdown.
Oliver walks in on the two in bed. Sookie immediately gets up and dresses herself, embarrassed. Oliver tries to retrieve Igby back to the “safeguard” of Mimi but Igby vehemently opposes. Oliver goes home empty-handed, well maybe not completely, as he shares a ride with Sookie. Later Oliver confides in Sookie his “numbness”, feeling nothing but curiosity rather than concern upon discovering thousands of cigarettes meticulously packed away at his father’s office drawers as a child.
Rachel, trying to recuperate the damages of her and D.H.’s relationship, makes herself up to be one of the pearl-necklaced; Laura Ashley suited blue bloods, covering track marks and all.
Sookie accompanies Igby to take his G.E.D.s. Igby wants Sookie to come to California with him and she agrees and when asked about what happened with Oliver, Sookie replies that she and him are much more closer in age and therefore more compatible, arousing jealously in Igby.
Igby finally goes to meet Mimi at a restaurant demanding his inheritance. But Mimi refuses and then goes to say that Jason did not leave the same provisions he had for Oliver. This comes as a bit of a shock to Igby and as he’s trying to wrap this bit of news in his mind, Mimi goes onto say that she met with Oliver and his new girlfriend…a girl matching the same description as Sookie.
Back at the loft, Igby finds Rachel overdosed from drugs. D.H. comes to the rescue at the hospital and escorts Igby back home. As he leaves him at the front door, D.H. decides to “teach” Igby a lesson for all of his blasé antics by beating him up.
Oliver comes by to visit Igby. He tells Igby that they found another lump in Mimi. Igby hatefully replies, “Good!” Igby reiterates the same fateful words of his father, “I feel this incredible weight…” as he looks at his mangled face in the mirror.
Igby goes screaming and shouting at Sookie’s front door, beckoning her to go with him to California but Sookie painfully refuses. Moment’s later, Oliver walks out of her apartment. “You’re just a glutton for punishment.”
Igby crashes at Russell’s place, peddling out drugs to random Upper East Side clients.
Igby and Sookie reconcile and he tells her of his plan to move, needing a change of scenery.
Igby and Oliver are at Mimi’s deathbed, as they will aid her euthanasia. Igby continues to provoke Mimi but she coolly handles the situation and gives him his inheritance and reveals that D.H. is Igby’s real father. Oliver starts the process. She starts to pass.
BACK TO THE FIRST SCENE. Mimi is dead. Suddenly Igby lashes out in a whirlwind of emotions first by beating on his mother’s corpses then crying hysterically as he hugs his mother, showing the first signs of affection towards her.
Oliver gets stuck with arranging the funeral, as Igby is ready to leave for California saying that he’ll probably miss the funeral. They give each other an awkward hug and say goodbye.
Surprisingly, Igby does show up for his mother’s funeral but only stands in the back unnoticed. He’s on a plane to California. A ray of sunlight caresses his face and he smiles without ever waking up.
IGBY GOES DOWN is a sharp, smart, and superbly written screenplay. It’s has a fresh and intelligent perspective on a coming of age story where the trials and tribulations are much more relevant and mature without the melodramatic clichés. It’s in a lot of ways, grittier, in its realism. At the same time it manages to balance out comedy and heart with wit, timing, and characterization.
The premise is intriguing enough, an Upper East Side prep school drop out slowly descending into a downward spiral of apathy. However, without reading it, it sounds like any other modern day coming of age movie.
The structure is good as it constantly moves forward at a good pace, keeping every scene engaging. It also times Igby’s growing turmoil well so that it’s spaced out and not just clustered around one act. Instead it is a slow build up showing the good times and the bad. Because of this, Igby’s overall attitude in life is very believable.
The dialogue in the script is nearly flawless. When it’s not beaming with wit, it is subtlety captures the essence of each character. Basically, much of the characterizations of the characters come from what they say and how they say it. Sometimes what is left unsaid resonates stronger than the whole “heart on your sleeves” bit. For instance, when Igby speaks, his overly sarcastic and cynical sentiments are a way to cope and protect his actual sensitivity and sincerity stemming from his father’s breakdown. Much to this effect, the rest of the characters too mask their inner vulnerabilities with their often times, cold and brutish remarks. Also, the sharpness of the dialogue paints a very vivid portrait of the Upper East Side Bourgeois, and lends itself to authority of the world.
Because the dialogue is so effective, it’s natural that the characters should compliments it’s depth. They are all well developed characters for the roles they play. The characters are not only delightfully clever, and exciting but also relentlessly strong and mature. The traumas of their lives has molded them into rather icy individuals but rather than being all out ruthless, these characters are more dignified and heroic in their ability to remain steadfast in their pursuit to survive. There is constant tension between what is said and what is not and because of this conflict it depicts very accurately human nature; that it is vulnerable, protective, and often times injured. Therefore, feelings and thoughts are implied and masked with another layer of one’s self often times to as a defense mechanism. We see both the humor and hurt in all these characters and in their varying ways, empathize with the truth in all.
Overall, there weren’t any real problematic elements of the script. Although it can be said that Sookie’s transition from Igby to Oliver could be interpreted as duplicitous, it does well to further add to Igby’s tragedy. Plus the story is not about their relationship nor were they set up to further committed to each other. Plus, Sookie hinted at her initial attraction to Oliver and because of this was truer to herself in the end. She was also able to develop to another level than just some witty snobby girl that Igby had a tryst with. She became more evolved with her more “on the level” relationship with Oliver. But again, I didn’t find anything problematic with that development or characterization. It worked well and moved the plot along.
The script was a good read, almost like reading a novel and comes highly recommended.