For a debut, Noah Baumbach’s Kicking and Screaming is an impressive effort, but it lacks the resonance or flexibility of his The Squid and the Whale, released ten years later. By that, I mean that Kicking and Screaming, which tells the tale of a bunch of college graduates mostly unwilling to take the plunge into the real world, would likely resonate strongly to those in that place in their lives, but feels far, far away to those who aren’t. Unlike, say, Reality Bites, there’s not enough emotional heft in Baumbach’s rapid-fire script to transcend its narrow focus (this is something Baumbach corrected in his wrenching The Squid and the Whale, then regressed in Margot at the Wedding, which also lacked anyone to really latch onto). Kicking and Screaming has a very sharp screenplay, and is, at times, quite funny, but there’s no real poignancy, and even the best written sequences drag a bit, or don’t work as well as they could or should (case in point: Baumbach test-runs his divorce plot-line, which stems from his personal experience, in a brief encounter between Grover and his father, but it winds up being merely amusing, not rich in subtext). Baumbach is still clearly finding his footing here, and while it’s an admirable opening act, it’s most notable for its hints of what’s to come (in addition to directing and penning The Squid and the Whale, Baumbach also co-wrote Wes Anderson’s hilarious-and-witty Fantastic Mr. Fox).

58/100