Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Squid and the Whale

by Professor Wagstaff
(Potential spoilers)

This was released in Australia a couple of weeks back and I managed to catch at the cinemas a few days ago.

There's a lot to like about this film - Jeff Daniels is great as the father, probably the best performance of his career. The film is sharply observed and shows up the foolishness and pretensions of the parents as their naive aims to have a 'respectable', joint custody, seperation dissolves into bitterness and ignorance of the troubles their children are going through. And it goes against the modern trend of being an overlong film (it clocks in at less then 90 mins).

There are some flaws in the film - the mother Joan (played by Laura Linney, who isn't at her best here) is a a hard character to get a grasp on what she does and why she does it, probably because writer/director Noah Baumbach (who based this on his own childhood experiences) blames the father for the breakup and is unable to treat the mother's flaws objectively and instead skims over them. I just get the hunch that the father in reality wasn't as much to blame as is portrayed here. Even if what occurred in the film is the actual truth, I had more sympathy for Bernard (Daniels' character) then most people did.

I also thought William Baldwin's performance as Ivan was disappointingly one-note and made one emphasise with Bernard's view that he was a waste of space and be baffled as to why Joan would go out with him.

While this a film that I didn't find entirely satisfying, it had me engrossed most of the way through and one that I would definitely like to re-watch on DVD.


Blogger Jackrabbit Slim said...

I enjoyed this film immensely, and wasn't really troubled by the flaws you specify (well, maybe by Billy Baldwin). If I had a vote, I'd have cast it for Jeff Daniels for Best Actor last year. The whole Pink Floyd song thing was great, I thought.

The only thing that threw me was the rather abrupt ending. It was almost as if they ran out of money and just called it a day.

4/20/2006 09:48:00 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

I need to watch it again, but I actually liked Baldwin's performance and thought it was very insightful and subtle. I remember the film being mostly from the kids point of view, so Baldwin's demeanor changed a bit depending on who else was in the scene. When Frank was around, he was very engaging and cool, because Frank looked up to him and thought he was kind of a badass. Otherwise, he was a waste of space dumbass, because no one but Frank really saw anything in him.

4/20/2006 11:03:00 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

I also loved this one, I'm currently trying to track down some of Baumbach's other films but Netflix only has one (Mr. Destiny, I think, or something like that) and it is probably number 60 in my queue at the moment.

I didn't find fault in any of the actors, and I thought Squid and the Whale features some of the best child acting, ever. I was expecting absolutely nothing from Billy Baldwin, so I was pleasantly surprised by his performance.

My favorite line: "Did you get that she was talking about her cunt?"

4/21/2006 10:51:00 AM  

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