“Can we have one spontaneous conversation where my dialogue doesn’t end up in your next story?”


Noah Baumbach’s ear for overlapping dialogue is already evident in his debut film, though Kicking and Screaming’s graduate pseudo-intellectual malaise is derivative of a host of films about stalled adolescence. Its loose approach is at times reminiscent of Richard Linklater’s early work like Slacker and Dazed and Confused, but there is less experimentation in the film-making. Dialogue is plainly the primary strength, Baumbach allowing his characters to work through their issues out loud whilst he also acknowledges their artifice, typically when one is abruptly undercut by another who sees through their fa├žade. Though witty, these are not eruditely word perfect characters, nor is that necessary with familiarity (“You know what I mean. We all know what we mean.” referring to both the friendship group and the audience). Kicking and Screaming is fittingly aimless for graduates waiting for life to begin, only Eric Stoltz’s perennial student understanding that it already has. Baumbach’s exploration of these ideas may be covering well-trodden ground but it does so in a sufficiently engaging way.