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THE SQUID AND THE WHALE, 2005
Movie Reviews!

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THE SQUID AND THE WHALE, 2005
Movie Review
Directed by Noah Baumbach
Starring: Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Jesse Eisenberg and Owen Kline
Review by Russell Hill




SYNOPSIS:

A once successful writer and his newly published wife decide to divorce, but the impact on their teenage sons is too much to bear. Soon, not just the parents’ lives begin to unravel but their adolescent offspring as well.

REVIEW:

Received incredibly well upon its release, with it winning a number of Sundance awards at the 2005 event as well as receiving a nomination for “Best Original Screenplay” at the Academy Awards, this relatively short film of just over 80 minutes is one of those hidden treats which many may have never had the pleasure of seeing.

Initially attracted to the film simply because of Jeff Daniels appearing in it, excuse my fascination but I believe Daniels to be one of the finest actors working today, I was soon intrigued to see Linney involved as well. Having first seen her in “The Truman Show” and more recently in the hugely successful mini-series “John Adams”, my hopes for what is really a short film rather than a feature were easily matched as this reviewer was rather pleased with himself for finding this movie which was bought for the measly sum of £3.

The Berkman’s are never going to be a prime example of what a functional family should be like. The Walton’s would look on in shame as to how the parents act around their own flesh and blood. Heavy drinking and cursing around impressionable youths will never leave a positive image on them, and in the case of Bernard (Daniels) this is very much the case. Walt (Eisenberg), the older of the two, takes after his father. Bernard’s constant dislike for his wife and mother of his children rubs off onto Walt, who blames his mother Joan (Linney) for everything. Younger brother Frank (Kline) doesn’t side with his father, and instead believes what his mother says. A momma’s boy, that’s for sure. As the relatively short narrative progresses, it goes along at breakneck speed that makes you wonder whether you had actually seen a two-hour feature, rather than it only lasting barely an hour and a half. By the films conclusion, a number of questions are answered but some remain unresolved. For a movie that tries to depict life in its true gruesome nature, with its highs and lows, it certainly does seem to hit the spot.

I guess the most awe-inspiring aspect about this movie is how real it looks. Shot using 16mm film, which gives it an almost amateur feel to it but instead these stars of Hollywood have agreed to appear, the direction by Baumbach really is something else. The old saying that you should never work with kids or animals seems to have been ignored in this case, and my how Baumbach was rewarded with performances by his younger stars that easily match their older contemporaries. It is Kline’s portrayal of Frank which seems to catch ones attention. Being the son of Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates, not a bad set of parents to have, the acting talent which his folks possess seem to have rubbed off well onto Owen.

Honestly speaking, this film is never going to be one to cheer one up. Hollywood’s fascination with sugar coating everyday life with emotional heart-string music is just too much, and this movie is definitely not the latter. I couldn’t help thinking that if the big name stars of Daniels and Linney and producer Wes Anderson hadn’t been attached to the project then it would have been shelved for an Indie company. But, thankfully, this was not the case and what we are left with is a very, very fine movie which even the most simplest of beings could appreciate. Well, maybe ex-President George W Bush might be the exception but that’s a story for another day. As I was saying, catch the movie. Rent it, or even buy it. You won’t be disappointed.

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