Jason "Igby" Slocumb, Jr. (Kieran Culkin) is a misanthropic 17-year-old boy, rebelling against the oppressive world of his strict East Coast "old money" family. His schizophrenic father, Jason (Bill Pullman), has been committed to an institution. Igby fears he will eventually suffer a mental breakdown like his father. His mother, Mimi (Susan Sarandon), is self-absorbed and distant. Igby mockingly describes his ambitious older brother Ollie (Ryan Phillippe) as a fascist or, alternatively, a Young Republican, and that he studies "neo-fascism" (economics) at Columbia University.
Igby figures there must be a better life out there, and he sets out to find it, rebelling against his family at every opportunity. After happily flunking out of several prep schools, he ends up in a brutal military academy where he gets beaten by his classmates. After escaping and spending time in a Chicago hotel courtesy of his mother's credit card, Igby is sent to New York for the summer to his godfather D.H. Banes (Jeff Goldblum).
While working construction for D.H., Igby first encounters Rachel (Amanda Peet), his godfather's heroin-addicted trophy mistress. Rather than return to school, he escapes into the bohemian underworld of Manhattan, hiding out with Rachel and her performance artist friend Russel (Jared Harris). Eventually, he and Rachel have sex. After being suspected and scolded by D.H., he then hooks up with terminally bored, part-time lover, Sookie (Claire Danes), only for her to later leave him for Ollie.
Despite seeming cold and distant, Mimi is not unaffected by her rebellious son. She describes Igby's conception as an act of animosity and it shouldn't be a surprise that his life follows the same course. His name is explained as a family in-joke. As a child, he would blame his toy bear, Digby, for things he had done, mispronouncing it as "Igby". In order to get him to take responsibility for his actions, his family would call him Igby whenever he lied.
Igby is informed by Russell that his mother Mimi is dying from breast cancer and so he returns to see her. She has arranged to commit suicide with help from Ollie, who feeds her poisoned strawberry yogurt.
Before she dies, Mimi makes a final revelation, casually inquiring of Igby, "I take it you know that D.H. is your father?" Igby leaves for Los Angeles in an attempt to finally make a clean break by getting 3,000 miles away from his family.Kieran Culkin as Jason "Igby" Slocumb, Jr.
Rory Culkin as 10-year-old Igby
Claire Danes as Sookie Sapperstein
Jeff Goldblum as D.H. Banes
Bill Pullman as "Jason Slocumb, Sr."
Susan Sarandon as Mimi Slocumb
Ryan Phillippe as Oliver "Ollie" Slocumb
Jared Harris as Russel
Amanda Peet as Rachel, D.H. Banes' mistress
Celia Weston as Bunny, Mrs. D.H. Banes
Cynthia Nixon as "Mrs. Piggee"
Gore Vidal (cameo) as Catholic priest
Gregory Itzin (uncredited) as the eulogist
Igby Goes Down was filmed in locations throughout New York City, including Central Park, Washington Square Park, and SoHo. It is one of the last films to show the Twin Towers of the original World Trade Center.
The soundtrack was released on February 25, 2003 by Spun Records.Additional music credits
Kodo – "Ibuki Reconstruction"
M. Tardieu – "Nocturne"
Supreme Beings of Leisure – "Golddigger"
Herman Beeftink – "Flamenco"
60 Ft. Dolls – "No. 1 Pure Alcohol"
Hans Enrlinger – "Esta Noche"
Liquido – "Narcotic"
Ramsay Midwood – "Waynesboro"
Pete Yorn – "Murray"
Igby Goes Down received positive critical reaction, with a 76% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes; the consensus states: "In the vein of The Catcher in the Rye, Igby Goes Down is scathingly witty and sharply observant" and a 72/100 on Metacritic. Critics have compared aspects of the story to J.D. Salinger's novel The Catcher in the Rye.
Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film a positive review and a grade of three and a half stars out of four. Stephen Holden gave a strongly positive review in The New York Times, crediting the film with "ruthless emotional honesty" and stating, "Not a false note is sounded." The film was also a New York Times "Critics' Pick."