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I am not a child of divorce but I am a confused, often pretentious teenager who adopts the views of my parents, they are a lot nicer than Jeff Daniels, without considering whether they are really my own. I also have a younger brother whom I care about and a burgeoning interest in the opposite sex and in that way I was able to relate to the main character whilst also having some perspective on his various flaws and the many mistakes he makes throughout this film. I can say confidently that this is one of the films that I have enjoyed watching most as in my attempts to watch â~respected, arty cinema' I have viewed both The Seventh Seal (1957) and Woman in the Dunes (1964) neither of which I felt any real connection to. Here is a film that is about teenagers that feel real, they are intelligent and yet sometimes stunningly stupid and the film is never condescending as we see his issues as being important a point that often gets overlooked in more mainstream films about teenagers.
Walt Berkman, Jesse Eisenberg, is an insecure 16 year old who chooses to side with his father Bernard, Jeff Daniels, after a messy divorce from his philandering mother Joan, Laura Linney. He begins to act out and struggles to relate to those around him as he impersonates his father, who may not be giving him the best advice. Meanwhile his brother Frank, Owen Kline, sides with his mother and looks up to her new boyfriend and their tennis instructor Ivan, William Baldwin, whilst beginning to drink alcohol and masturbate at school. The two boys come of age as their parents begin to act even more childishly than their own offspring and their complicated growth process provides great fodder for laughs but also well-observed and tender moments.
Eisenberg adopts his usual type A, intelligent but pretentious and insecure shtick in the leading role but here it is far more charming than stale and he carries off his flawed but sympathetic role well. Walt is like many teenagers, he looks up to, even idolizes his father and hopes to adopt his father's way of thinking and views, down to his opinions on Last Year at Marienbad (1961), to appear more mature and cultured. In the end of course this just makes him appear stuffy and affected while to anyone except his girlfriend his comments are clearly an echo of his father's own. It is this incredible frustration of being a kid who just wants respect from your father and your peers that is universal and the esoteric cultural references make this element of the film especially fun to watch.
This conflict only works of course because the role of Bernard is played by the incomparable Jeff Daniels who seems like something straight out of a Kenneth Lonergan movie, maybe it's just the presence of Anna Paquin. His Bernard is a washed up, full of himself writer who has no business distributing advice to his sons who he may be even less oriented than. When he lectures his sons, mainly Walt, on French cinema and Kafka it is entertaining but we feel what a major force Bernard is in his son's life and how he eagerly soaks up all of these tidbits hoping to use them later. His relationship with a young student Lili, Anna Paquin, whom Walt is also attracted to adds to the creep factor and the obvious connection to Woody Allen's Manhattan (1979) can be made, it appears to influence most of Baumbach's work.
Laura Linney, another Lonergan muse, inhabits her role equally as well, she is a woman who has flagrantly cheated on her husband, who faces many challenges in raising her children and yet she is more sympathetic than Bernard. Linney's luminous presence lights up any role but here she is on top form as she takes what would have been a difficult character and lets you in on all of the internal strife that this character experiences as she has torn up her relatively stable life just to get away from the insufferable Bernard. Were it anyone other than Linney I doubt that she would be so likable but perhaps it's nice in a film with otherwise unlikable characters to have a beacon of light.
This is a film that I would recommend to anybody over the age of twelve, several sexual references are made, it will connect with teenagers in particular but I believe that adult audiences can get a lot out of it too. Linney and Daniels are worth the price of admission alone.
Baumbach seemingly first established his distinctive writing that has become an occasional generational theme of realistic relations through few of his following films. Circling around a divorce, the approach is surprisingly edgy in coming-of-age contextual norms as part of the maintained balance among the affected quartet family while heading in a direction of being classically open-ended that questionably lingers afterwards. (A-)
(Full review TBD)
Noah Baumbach's best film is embracing in its realism and sincerity.
Liked this movie, acted well in particular Jeff Daniels who plays an unlikeable character but is terrific in the movie. Jesse Eisenberg, I find he irritates me a little bit particular in his early roles, quite arrogant in this movie. Anna Paquin with her odd mouth is great as a sexy student and Laura Linney is great in everything. All in all, an unusual movie but great to watch.
Funny, sad and eccentric. Loved it.
mom and me versus you and dad..
The Squid And The Whale
It is so fabricated that it has to be realistic and when one achieves that fine line on the horizon and manages to perfectly balance it until the curtain drops there is a cathartic release among viewers which is quite rare to find. Noah Baumbach's writing is way too strong and has enormous potential to be independent of any barring or restrains and floats peculiarly where one cannot move away ones concentration from it. His execution skills are admirable too but might have to work on it a bit more to even match with its astoundingly poetic script. Jeff Daniels has got it covered on "performance" department where Laura Linney and Jesse Eisenberg are supporting him throughout the course of it. The Squid And The Whale is not your typical dysfunctional family genre feature for the places it visits and the range it contains, is something one can't even possibly imagine.
Great performances and character studies. It seems very honest.
The Squid and the Whale is an intimate look at divorce and family relations, benefiting from a honest, sharp script and sensitive direction from Noah Baumbach alongside heartfelt performances from Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney.
Tops my list for one of the most awkward scenes that make you feel embarrassed for the character moments.
It's emotionally revealing without all the stereotypical drama. Casting is strong and provides subtle nuances in shifting perspectives.