F.I.L.M. of the Week (October 30, 2009)

30 10 2009

Squid and WhaleThe honor of being “F.I.L.M. of the Week” is now officially bestowed upon “The Squid and the Whale.”  It is perhaps one of the most brazen movies I have ever seen, and I loved every minute of it.  I should have known by reading the movie’s tagline, “Joint Custody Blows.”  The movie is based on events from the life of writer/director Noah Baumbach (a frequent collaborator with director Wes Anderson), a fact that only enhances the experience.  Chronicling the events following the separation his parents in the 1980s and the chaos that ensues, “The Squid and the Whale” joins “Revolutionary Road” as one of the few domestic dramas that I buy completely.  The believability is a result of Baumbach’s clever dialogue, which got him an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay, and two powerful performances from Laura Linney and Jeff Daniels that deserved to be lauded much more than they were.

The film is a masterful piece overall, but it is particularly deft at showing the psychological effects of the divorce on all involved.  16-year-old Walt (Jesse Eisenberg) becomes a prime example of how we all become our parents whether we like it or not as he uncertainly navigates a relationship while pondering other options.  On a similar note, 12-year-old Frank (Owen Kline) begins to probe into the sordid secrets of the world of drugs and sexuality with potentially harmful consequences.  And the harm doesn’t stop at the kids.  Both Bernard and Joan, played respectively by Daniels and Linney, have to deal with the breaking of the fragile joint custody agreement.  Their personalities lead to split alliances between the kids; Walt sides with his father while Frank sides with his mother.  And Bernard and Joan only deepen the divisions as poor decisions are made and new romantic relationships are formed.

Even though a comparison was drawn earlier to the heavy “Revolutionary Road,” “The Squid and the Whale” is much different.  It provides plenty of laughs, many from the profuse profanity from Daniels and the young Kline, but equally from some biting, witty dialogue from Baumbach.  His knack for finding the lighter side of the bitter dissolution of a marriage that makes “The Squid and the Whale” such a marvelous film.  And did I mention that it runs only 80 minutes long?

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