THE SQUID AND THE WHALE
BY CHRISTOPHER HASKELL
JULY 15, 2010
Noah Baumbach is a director of real life. Baumbach’s expertise focuses on taking a real life subject, like two parents separating, and making a cinematic film. Baumbach steers clear of cliché moments or high action sequences, but simply displays to you, still in a cinematic and interesting way, how a real life situation can play out. Baumbach still succeeds in displaying a sense of humor and knowledge on a subject as if he has experienced it himself.
“The Squid and The Whale” is the fourth film for director Noah Baumbach. In having such a small repertoire, Baumbach already shows that he has a set style all his own and is able to grab attention with a low anxiety plot.
The film steps into the life of a four person family, father Jeff Daniels, mother Laura Linney, and their two sons, Jesse Eisenberg and Owen Kline. Less than a third of the way into the film, Daniels and Linney decide to separate, but still sharing custody of the children, who immediately pick sides. The rest of the film follows the fallout in the aftermath of separation. Do not worry, this is real life, where there are no happy endings or breakthrough moments. What comes instead is the bitterness that comes from a break-up and the effect it has on the children; effects like the youngest boy drinking beer and exposing himself in the school library, or the oldest son writing book reports on books his father tells him about or passing a Pink Floyd song off as his own.
The performances are subtle in the film. Each character has a set attribute that is constantly coming into play. Daniels is a pretentious jerk who is jealous of his wife’s success. Eisenberg shines in his first award nominated performance as the oldest son. His resemblance to his father is uncanny and allows for most of the humor that comes from the film. The young star, Owen Kline, in his only film role to this date, was the most convincing young boy I have viewed in a drama film ever. (Owen Kline got the role from family friend Jennifer Jason Leigh, who is married to Baumbach). The subtle humor that plays out between the cast is set by the constant arguments each family member ends up having with one another, with snappy punch lines and cuss words galore.
For anyone that has had their parents separate, “The Squid and The Whale” could really hit home for you, making light of a serious situation by poking fun at itself. The film screams reality as if it has happened to Noah Baumbach. Though the film was never and will never be a commercial success, Baumbach is solidifying his own genre of film and the audience that appreciates his style will continue to appreciate Baumbach‘s unique dramatic storytelling.
October 5, 2005
Samuel Goldwyn Films
(for strong sexual content, graphic dialogue and language)