I think it's very safe to say that if Noah Baumbach had never co-written The Life Aquatic with Wes Anderson, I would have never heard of Kicking and Screaming. Forever confused with the 2005 Will Ferrell/Robert Duvall kids soccer movie of the same name, Baumbach's 1995 film could also be considered one of the seven movies that Parker Posey acted in that were released that year. Add Eric Stoltz to the mentions of who's in the film and you have a film ripe for indie film stereotyping. So why should you give a crap about Kicking and Screaming? Because it's a story is about a time in our lives that is too often looked passed as a brief transition.
Originally titled Fifth Year, Kicking and Screaming portrays the first year of a handful of friends post-college. Opting to stay close to the university they graduated from, one re-enrolls, one ponders either graduate school or a job, one drifts with no real goals and one tries to get over a break-up. Doesn't that sound like people we know? It does for me with the people I know and have known in my first few years out of college.
I stayed in my college's town eight months after I graduated in December '01. Working part-time but obsessively worrying full-time about not having a full-time job, I felt very low for a solid three months. A number of my friends were still in school, so I spent a lot of time hanging out with them. Playing in two bands in town, I had plenty of stuff to do, but I still had the "Now what?" feeling. This is definitely something they can't prepare you for in school, but this is a challenge we must take on. We gotta feel like the pinball in the pinball machine sometime and it's not exclusive to the first year out of college.
Watching Kicking and Screaming, I quickly realized that the character types up on screen weren't that far removed from the attitudes and personalities I've run into. I'm talking the smart guys who seem like they have it together but are as scared as you. "What I use to able to pass off as a bad summer could now potentially turn into a bad life," says Max in one of his most memorable lines. How true. How true.
A major part of the film that I'm puzzled/intrigued by is the ending. I'm not giving it away, but to me, the film pauses more than it ends. You don't get a full resolution, but now that I think about it, this seems like a great way to end the film. Think about your own life -- was there a point when you realized you weren't a kid anymore but didn't feel like a responsible adult? I've been feeling like that for years and often question my level of post-collegiate "success."
Not to knock The Graduate or Bottle Rocket, but Kicking and Screaming is able to look at people's live post-school with a sharper sense of grounded reality. Like those films, Kicking and Screaming tells this story in a very timeless way. Other than some hairstyles and clothes, very little about the film has aged in a bad way. As a film that came out post-Slacker, the Generation X tag is almost always going to be found somewhere in the description. Until you actually watch the film for the first time, you'll probably realize that this is not just a Generation X thing. Just like teen angst, we go through the post-education angst phase, but we don't often see it in the movies. So kudos to the Criterion Collection for re-issuing this on DVD.