|Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Jesse Eisenberg, Owen Kline, Anna Paquin, William Baldwin
|April 13, 2006
Parents Bernard (Daniels) and Joan Berkman (Linney) have brought their two children, Walt (Eisenberg) and Frank (Kline), into the living room for a “family meeting”. Everyone knows what’s going to be said. Bernard and Joan have decided to separate after 17 years of marriage. One of the few points they’ve agreed upon is joint custody of the kids.
I should mention that this isn’t a “normal” family and that’s what makes the film so undeniably brilliant. There is no such thing as “normal” family and when I used that term in my previous sentence, I refer to the stereotypical version that we see in so many American movies. I speak of families where everyone is blissfully happy and all troubles are easily resolved.
The reason films like The Ice Storm, American Beauty and Igby Goes Down have been so well received is because they portray families for what they really are. They can be uncomfortable to sit though but they are inherently honest. The Squid And The Whale now deserves inclusion in their company.
There’s no question that Bernard and Joan don’t get along but the effect of their parenting (both pre and post separation) on their children is what makes the film most interesting. It’s hard for me to articulate the personalities of Walt and Frank because writer-director Noah Baumbach has done a terrific job in making them multi-dimensional. You will look in disbelief when you see what these kids get up to but it’s hard to blame them when you consider their youthful innocence and the “guidance” given by their own parents.
This is the second consecutive film of Noah Baumbach which I have lavished high praise upon. Those that saw The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou will know that Baumbach has a quirky, sarcastic sense of humour which will appeal to some but annoy others. The Squid And The Whale follows in a similar vein to Zissou and whilst the subject matter is more serious, there are plenty of humorous scenes which will catch you off guard. Without spoiling too much, let me say that the language is “colourful” and the sexual content is “graphic”.
You may feel like you’re looking into a mirror but if you can stand the discomfort, The Squid And The Whale will be a most rewarding movie experience.