Kicking and Screaming is about a group of young men who, after graduating, can’t seem to move on with their lives. They stay in town and spend their time drinking and reminiscing about their college days. I didn’t find this to be a particularly good movie in terms of writing or acting, although I did find it perturbing, because although the characters are bitter, almost pathetic people, at times you can understand their hesitance to let go, their reluctance to move on, their fear to leave.
The main character, Grover (Josh Hamilton), is a sarcastic, cynical writer who was left by his girlfriend Jane who goes to study in Prague post-graduation. Grover justifies his refusal to follow Jane by saying that he doesn’t want to become “one of those people who goes to Prague” to suddenly stop shaving their armpits and realize how bad American coffee is. He spends his time replaying Jane’s long distance calls on his answer machines (he never calls her back) and hooking up with college freshmen to fill the void in his life.
Grover shares an apartment with his friends, Otis, Max, Skippy, and Chet, all recent graduates except for Chet, who is still enrolled in college.
Chet (Eric Stoltz) is perhaps the most interesting character. He looks to be in his mid-30’s, although the film never explicitly gives his age. Chet is in still in school, managing to never graduate. According to the others, he’s taken every class the school offers and has been to over a decade of graduations spanning multiple college presidents. At night, Chet bartends and has one-sided intellectual conversations about Fitzgerald and Kant to disinterested townies. In one conversation with Grover, he explains that some people are vets and lawyers, but he’s a student. It’s what he does. It’s his calling and he’s never felt the need or the want to do anything else.
Throughout the film are juxtaposed clips of Grover when he first meets Jane, and then of their first date and reluctant start of their relationship. In the present time, you can see Grover getting more and more restless until he finally makes the spontaneous decision to book the next flight to Prague to be reunited with Jane, only to be stopped because he does not have his passport. Has his epiphany arrived too late?
Though the lives of these characters depict what are most likely the worst-case scenarios for any post-graduate, it seems they have fallen into a trap that’s not so hard to fall into. Grover is like a character out of a Fitzgerald story: pretentious, yet rejecting all that is pretentious. It seems he’d rather rot than become a cliche and do what’s expected of him. Otis (Carlos Jacott), is an anxious, stuttering mechanical engineer who’s just scared to leave home. He has incredibly low self esteem and still lives with his mother, never having truly been on his own. Skippy (Jason Wiles) has the maturity of a college freshman and seems to think he should still be one. Max (Chris Eigerman) is living off his parents’ fortune with the attitude that he doesn’t have to care about adult life yet. And Chet – Chet looks ridiculous to everyone around him yet he doesn’t realize it, he’s played the part so many times he believes it himself, that he really is an eternal student.
Left to right: Otis, Max, Grover, Skippy.
Your college years are supposed to be some of the best years of your life, and it’s understandable not to want to let go of that so quickly, but at this film shows, there are worse ways to live than finally having to face the “real world.”