' ' Cinema Romantico: Who Is the MVP of Kicking and Screaming?

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Who Is the MVP of Kicking and Screaming?

Twenty years ago this week “Kicking and Screaming” was released to great fanfare. Well, “great” might be a Trump-ian exaggeration. It was released, per Box Office Mojo, into a single theater. It pulled down $28,000. “Batman Forever”, which had been out 17 weeks already, pulled down $142,000 more. “Assassins”, which I remember going to see in the theater, made $12 million. The Times They Aren’t A Changin’. Still, “Kicking and Screaming” has lived on via a moderate cult of which I am totally part. My dear friends Jacob and Ashley both pushed me in the direction of this film way back when. I watched it. I loved it. I cherish it. To this day Ashley and I will often sign off on emails to one another not with our name but with a “Kicking and Screaming” quote. Like… “Who the hell bought black eyed peas”? Or: “There’s also that dark side to the nose ring.”

But I have addressed my affection for “Kicking and Screaming’s” dialogue and for the film itself years ago. And the truth is that Noah Baumbach’s film is defined just as much by its great characters and the exemplary performances that bring them life. It’s an ensemble filled to the brim, so much so that it begs indifferently asks the question... Who is “Kicking and Screaming’s” MVP? You (didn’t) ask, we deliver.

Who Is the MVP of Kicking and Screaming?


10. Jason Wiles. Even if Parker Posey (and we’ll get to her shortly) is supposed to be dating someone not quite right for her, her natural state of Posey-ness is nonetheless too much for Wiles to keep up with. And in comparison to the rest of his fellow “Cougars!”, sorry, but Wiles is breathing underwater.

9. Cara Buono. As a teenager tutee of Josh Hamilton’s Grover, it’s not so much that she infiltrates the group by displaying a wisdom beyond her years as she earns their respect by demonstrating a self-confidence by way of a confrontational attitude that these neurotic knuckleheads can’t help but admire.

8. Josh Hamilton. Remember when Winston Wolf said “Just because you are a character doesn’t mean that you have character”? Hamilton’s Grover might be the most fully developed character in “Kicking and Screaming”, but compared to his fellow actors Hamilton doesn’t create as much of a character.

7. Christopher Reed. His European student, the immortal Friedrich, is hardly in the film yet utterly indelible, egregiously pretentious and somehow still totally self-effacing. It’s a trick they should teach at the Actors Studio. “Two grapes!”

6. Olivia d’Abo. She affects a similar dialect to all the boys around her while simultaneously emitting an aura that suggests she is just slightly more emotional advanced if still struggling in her own way. Still, she never quite stands out, as it were. She’s good, yes, undoubtedly, but in terms of MVP, well, you’re left thinking that someone such as Jennifer Connelly could gotten this same job done.

5. Eric Stoltz. Implicitly captures a twenty-something elder statesman.

4. Parker Posey. Posey’s famed Face of Mock Bemusement is at supersonic; her patented “what the hell is wrong with you?” disinterest is at DEFCON 1. I have seven thousand favorite Parker Posey moments but “I use that fan all the time…all the time” is in the Top 2. She is younger than these doofuses but wise enough to know they’re full of shit.

3. Elliot Gould. As the main character’s Dad, one in the midst of a divorce, Gould has essentially only one scene and makes it count. He’s sad-eyed and reserved, the embodiment of what so many years can render, tired out and all too accepting of Cheez Whiz instead of cheese, the surest sign a man is worn to the nub.

2. Chris Eigeman. It’s quintessential Eigeman, an exemplary, exhausting accounting of a young adult fancying himself a sophisticated old man who knows full well his own faults yet tries to cover for it with erudite hauteur. When he gazes into the non-existent distance and remarks “I wish I was retiring after a lifetime of hard labor,” you know it’s the one thing he really, truly means.


1. Carlos Jacott. In the interviews Noah Baumbach conducted with the principal cast members on the “Kicking and Screaming” Criterion edition, both Eigeman and Hamilton concede that throughout filming they were convinced Jacott was walking away with the movie. His character is described as having two moods, “testy and antsy”, though Jacott plays him much more antsy than testy. And that antsiness is crucial tonic to the considerable churlishness of his friends. Jacott is funny, sure, in a brilliantly neurotic way, but through his neurosis he also communicates something distinctly humane. When he fails to read “All the Pretty Horses” (twice!) for his two-man book club, he’s not devious in trying to cover it up, he’s apologetic; he’s a slacker with the noblest of intentions.

1 comment:

Fisti said...

I need to just see this already!