Employment Guide: ‘Kicking and Screaming’ a source of relief for college grads

By John Lavanga / A&E Editor

February is a dismal month, but it might be even more dismal if you’re a college senior who’s confused about his or her future. Every day that passes brings you one day closer to the ultimate end: your last day of college. The day your friend who downs four beers and a seven and seven every a Tuesday night realizes a change in lifesytle is in order.. The day your engineering friend has to pretend to be sad about the “loss of freedom” that comes with his new high-paying job to make you feel better.

It’s also the day that, if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably realize that all that time spent pretending to know what to do with your life was a nice bit of performance, but that’s all it was. The greatest skill you’ve developed in college was learning how to rant about how bad the newest Arctic Monkeys album was or explaining why Old Fashioneds are what you should be drinking.

Luckily for me — and those like me — there exists a film designed specifically to offer guidance and motivation to wayward college grads grasping desperately for a future.

Though Noah Baumbach is widely known for his work on films such as “The Squid and the Whale,” “Frances Ha” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” his first directorial endeavor, “Kicking and Screaming” — not to be confused with Will Ferrell’s 2005 movie of the same name — is up there with “Swingers” as one of the least-appreciated classics of the mid-’90s. The film follows four highbrow college graduates as they navigate the bleak world that waits for those who breezed through college with a minimum of planning.

Each of the four copes with their own hangups after college as they hang around the same college town from which they graduated. At the bottom of it, however, is the painful discovery that no matter how much witty banter they can come up with, it won’t replace having an actual purpose in life. Perhaps the line that hits hardest is when Max, the most cynical of the four, remarks early on: “What I used to able to pass off as a bad summer could now potentially turn into a bad life.”

Though it masquerades as a comedy, “Kicking and Screaming” probably works better as a scared-straight program for lazy college seniors. The tone is subdued. No joke warrants much more than a hearty chuckle, and everything ends up feeling slightly hollow.

Towering over all of their petty personal crises — who they’re sleeping with, how to start a book club — is the painful realization that they’ve not only squandered their college years, but also that they’re squandering their lives trying to relive those college years.

If the only thing you’re dreading more than graduation day are the months that come afterwards, “Kicking and Screaming” makes for essential viewing. It’s guaranteed to make even the least motivated among us shake off their laziness and get rolling.