The Squid and the Whale

A Film Review By The Mike

Starring: Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Jesse Eisenberg
Directed By: Noah Baumbach
Rated Rated R for Sexual Content/Dialogue, Language, and Masturbating Kids

Final Grade:

Box Office Bullet Points: The Movie In A Nutshell *The performances of each cast member are nothing extraordinary, but as a whole the group seems fresh and real. Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney play off each other superbly, and Jesse Eisenberg continues to shine as a young talent to watch. William Baldwin even adds a few laughs.

*The younger son, Frank, is a little too creepy at times.

*Some really funny satire and a bit of classic humor…

*But it’s also one of the most heartbreaking dramas of recent memory.

*I really applaud the film for not taking the easy way out with its conflict and characters. They each have major flaws, but it never singles out who is wrong and who is right. It gives us real, human characters, and it’s easy for the viewer to empathize with them.

I regret saying that, when I was younger, there were many times when I was pretty certain my parents were going to get a divorce. I remember thinking about this possibility, and having a million questions running through my mind. Who would I rather live with? Which parent would move out? Would my parents stop talking to each other? And how would that work when me or my sister wanted to have both parents around? But the only thing I remember being certain of when considering these questions was that I was afraid of making those choices. In fact, I was terrified by the mere possibility of them arising. Thankfully, I never had to, and now realize my parents are probably the best duo I’ve ever known.

The Berkman family that is the center of The Squid and the Whale was not so fortunate. The film, a freshman effort by Wes Anderson-protege Noah Baumbach, dives into these issues headfirst, and does so with a brutal honesty. The film introduces us to a family that seems pretty normal, and then tears it apart at the seams. What follows is a portrait of each character and the weaknesses they have. Some of these flaws were causes of the divorce, but many of them some of were simply strengthened by the divorce.

Baumbach’s script is inspired by turmoils that he and his brother encountered upon their parents’ divorce, and it shows. He handles the flow of the story with flair, sliding the characters through funny and likable moments that are often immediately followed by heartbreaking ones. This allows the film to emulate life, because the characters do not progress through the film in a distinct order. Their emotions and opinions are never really concrete, and the trouble they are having facing the challenges that life has provided them is easily visible through the uncertainty and fear that is evident in most of their dialogue or expressions.

Like a lot of recent independent dramas, this film doesn’t answer all the questions about its characters and their lives. But, unlike a lot of those films, I think Baumbach’s film makes the right choice by leaving many things open for his characters. A film this lifelike and emotional cannot be summed up simply without seeming short-sighted. Baumbach knows better, he’s dealt with these fears, and he most likely still is. There are no easy answers for the characters, just like the unfortunate people dealing with divorce in real life.

The Verdict:
A rich, human drama that deserves recognition as one of the better films of the year.

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