Monday, December 05, 2005

Movie Review: The Squid and the Whale

The Squid and the Whale
Director & Writer: Noah Baumbach

I imagine you’ve read and heard everyone rave about this picture. Pay attention. The Squid and the Whale, based on director/writer Noah Baumbach’s boyhood is a poignant story written with honest candour.

Set in 1986 Brooklyn, in the Park Slope neighbourhood, the story bares the pain, anger, and confusion of the Berkman family divorce. The father, Bernard (Jeff Daniels), has seen his literary star dull while he polishes the work of his grad students. Meanwhile, his wife Joan (Laura Linney) is making a dent in the New York world of letters. The boys Frank (Owen Kline) and Walt (Jesse Eisenberg) bear the brunt of adult frustrations and infidelity.

Baumbach’s writing is top notch and scathing. While the characters demand a certain amount of empathy or anger, they are written and played with human complexity thereby failing to deliver cliché. Veterans Daniels and Linney are both great but merely support the heart-wrenchingly sweet performances of Kline and Eisenberg. You cannot take your eyes or ears off of either of them. Boys are definitely boys here; no soft-focus saccharine sentimentality; no purposeful twanging of heartstrings. Both actors will make strong dramatic appearances again, one hopes.

A wonderful film.

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