The Squid and the Whale

The Squid and the Whale (2005) movie poster

(2005) dir. Noah Baumbach
viewed: 04/30/06

This is a solid family drama, not typically a genre that I am willing to delve into, but when it’s done well, as it is here, it’s good stuff. The film of a divorce happening is quite literally like watching a car wreck, that common metaphor, where things slow down and it’s gruesome but you cannot look away. The film is not necessarily “unflinching” or anything, but I was struck by how much of the scenes are wholly uncomfortable and stressful. The whole thing reads with a high level of believability and is supposed to be based on writer/director Noah Baumbach’s experience with his parents’ divorce in the 1980’s. Knowing that, I was trying to figure out which of the boys’ perspective was primarily being served. I fluctuated on that throughout the film, mostly lingering on the younger brother, but with the final scene, thought perhaps it was the older brother that represented Baumbach.

That may seem like a pointless concern, but it struck me throughout.

The cast is excellent. I think everyone in the film was very good. The film constantly rides a line along the unnerving discomfort and stress of a breaking model of family life for each of the members of the family. Its humor and seriousness stride along together, striking a tone that isn’t entirely like that of producer Wes Anderson, but isn’t totally dissimilar either. Certainly less whimsical and fantastical, a lot more on the side of realism.

I guess I still question the point of view. Maybe not knowing its autobiographical roots, one wouldn’t be as drawn to the issue. Still, I don’t know.

Oh yes, I must say that I have now elevated Anna Paquin to the level of my favorite attractive actresses. This doesn’t usually have to have anything to do with their acting ability and a lot more to do with the level of their physical and personal charms. (Insert “tiger growl” here). She is lovely.

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