It’s unlikely Criterion would have released this pic, writer-director Noah Baumbach’s first feature, had his fourth, Oscar-nommed “The Squid and the Whale,” not been such a critical success last year. But though the latter is vastly superior, “Kicking” still has plenty to recommend it, and Criterion’s typically generous extras make for a compelling package, though perhaps not one worth every penny of this single disc’s luxe pricing.
Like many indie pics from the mid-1990s, “Kicking” — here benefiting from an excellent visual and audio transfer — explores post-collegiate angst and failed romance through a comic prism. The humor is perceptive and wry, yet the nuance and depth that distinguished “The Squid and the Whale” remain years away.
There’s no commentary, but Criterion supplies a surfeit of interview material, most of it fresh. Some of it seems rushed, though, especially the interview with a fast-talking Baumbach, which leaves us wanting more. Far better are the conversations between Baumbach, as interlocutor, and cast members Josh Hamilton, Chris Eigeman and Carlos Jacott.
A clutch of deleted scenes is preceded by title cards, on which Baumbach offers context. The scenes are welcome, but the film is better without them.
The package’s oddest bonus is “Conrad and Butler Take a Vacation,” a short that Baumbach directed in 2000. Starring two actors from “Kicking,” Jacott and John Lehr, and with grade-Z production values, this tiresome lark serves only one purpose: It proves just how far Baumbach has come.