Aneesh Chaganty

Movie #174 The Squid and The Whale

In Uncategorized on March 28, 2011 at 6:39 PM

Movie #174 The Squid and the Whale

(2005, US, d. Noah Baumbach)

I’d seen parts of 2010’s Greenberg with Ben Stiller and I wasn’t too ecstatic about that film, but I’d heard a lot about the director’s previous work, The Squid and The Whale. It’s only 80 minutes long but it’s one of the most true and touching portrayals of divorce I’ve seen on screen. There is no violence, no physical conflict, but just the way a couple and their two kids react to the divorce. It’s a film both jarringly painful to watch but incredibly hilarious. It’s recollection of little details are so pure and real that the audience is often torn between those two reactions: Will Walt’s (played by Jesse Eisenberg) obsession with turning into Bernard turn him into a cheap hack? Is 12-year old Frank’s  (played delightfully by Owen Kline) recent surge in crazy masturbation a pubescent trend or is he finding another way to let go of the tension caused domestically? What are the parents’ roles in all of these? Can’t there be one person at fault? These are all questions that The Squid probes over and over again but it does without ever seeming intent on providing the answers, as the best films always do. There are no cheap gimmicks, just real dialogue. The performances are so real – like a coil just about to burst – that the audience can feel every moment of the couple’s relationship in a single scene. The genius of Baumbach’s work is that makes you laugh and cry, but often at the same time. It’s hard not to laugh when Bernard (played by Jeff Daniels) takes the three dollars offered to him at Denny’s by his son’s new girlfriend. But it’s also a moment that is painfully real to watch. As is the whole movie.

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