movie film review | chris tookey

Squid and the Whale

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  Squid and the Whale Review
Tookey's Rating
9 /10
Average Rating
7.91 /10
Bernard Berkman: Jeff Daniels , Joan Berkman: Laura Linney
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Directed by: Noah Baumbach
Written by: Noah Baumbach

Released: 2005
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 81

The Squid and the Whale rightly received an Oscar nomination for its screenplay by director Noah Baumbach, who’s a terrific prospect.. His darkly comic dialogue is as perceptive as it is funny. And though the script lacks structure – the characters don’t so much develop as gradually reveal themselves in all their horror – at 81 minutes it doesn’t outstay its welcome.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Jeff Daniels (pictured right) delivers his best performance ever as an arrogant but failing novelist, opinionated academic and literary snob who takes out his resentments on his wife (exquisitely played by Laura Linney, left), a novelist who is on her way up. Most films would be about the husband’s development, but The Squid and the Whale is about his bull-headed refusal to change, with all its absurd and tragic consequences.

Baumbach, himself the son of literary parents, brilliantly dissects the follies of “progressive parenting” and the disastrous effect of the marriage break-up on their two sons as they find themselves having to take sides..

The two boys are wonderfully played by Jesse Eisenberg and Owen Kline (who’s the offspring of Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates). Eisenberg proved himself a formidable young talent in Roger Dodger, and this film confirms that we’re going to see a lot more of him.

Some people will find this picture a little too sexually explicit, but I found it refreshingly frank. There’s bad language, too, but for once it’s there for a purpose: to reveal character and psychological disintegration.

The film should be required viewing for anyone sleepwalking into a divorce. And for those already undergoing a separation, it’s an education in how not to behave during it. This is a profoundly cautionary tale, and a good example of how the very best comedy can come out of tragedy and pain.

So far, it’s the finest and most original American film of the year.

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