In a few weeks, I will turn 22, the same age as the characters in Noah Baumbach’s “Kicking & Screaming.” While watching the film, I couldn’t help but wonder if I was getting a glimpse of my very own future. Hopefully I’ll get my life in a bit more order than these washed-up college grads struggling to find direction after their paths are no longer pre-ordained…
Though the movie is nearing its second decade, it does not appear to have aged at all. “Kicking & Screaming” provides a portrait of prolonged adolescence and delayed adulthood that is both entertaining and enlightening. It takes the cake as my “F.I.L.M. of the Week” because my identification with the film went beyond just recognizing the characters. I think I may be these characters.
Baumbach effortlessly captures the seemingly timeless sensation of emerging from college and knowing all the ideas that changed the world yet having very few ideas of one’s own. (Or perhaps he was just one of the first people to observe what A.O. Scott recently lamented as “The Death of Adulthood in American Culture.”) His film is less concerned with forward plot progression as a kind of stewing yet spirited stasis, aligning rather nicely with the disposition of the characters.
“Kicking & Screaming” presents the lives of four male pals from their graduation night onward, letting us watch as they bicker pithily at each other to delude themselves of their own importance while doing relatively little with their newly printed degrees. Sure, the sniping is quite pretentious, but at least they are educated and self-aware enough to realize that.
As they continue to interact with the milieu of their university from the perspective of a lingerer, pathetic hilarity ensues with every remark. So long as you can find their musings palatable, “Kicking & Screaming” will have you hooting and hollering. And perhaps you might not; it’s entirely possible that I will no longer find the film amusing
if once I move beyond the current stage in my life. But I get the sense I’ll always enjoy this movie given its sharp understanding of a very specific condition.
(And just to clear the air, this is NOT the same “Kicking and Screaming” that stars Will Ferrell, Robert Duvall, Mike Ditka, and Josh Hutcherson. Classic mixup.)