Film review: The Squid and the Whale

The Squid and the Whale
2005
Sony Pictures

STARRING Jesse Eisenberg, Owen Kline, Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, William Baldwin, Anna Paquin, Halley Feiffer, Ken Leung
WRITTEN BY Noah Baumbach
PRODUCED BY Wes Anderson, Charlie Corwin, Clara Markowicz, Peter Newman
DIRECTED BY Noah Baumbach

SHOT BY Robert D. Yeoman
EDITED BY Tim Streeto
MUSIC BY Britta Phillips, Dean Wareham
DISTRIBUTED BY Samuel Goldwyn Films

Screened on 2005-10-17

The maxim held by quirky indie comedies for the past ten years has been, “Don’t speak. Create an awkward moment and let it linger in silence.” It’s the outside observer watching a person in their dumb moment of realization and sneaking a chuckle. And that’s how The Squid and the Whale feels, like the silence before the punchline.

Squid revolves around the dysfunctional Berkman family, helmed by Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney. Following their divorce, the two young Berkman bucks suffer through joint custody and struggle to reconcile what their parents found to be irreconcilable. Sadly, the story plods along, and it doesn’t help that an intolerable level of cynicism and sarcasm masks each character’s humanity. The Berkman’s are wildly critical beings, and the viewer must watch the characters cut each other until they bleed to death – which would be tragic if it weren’t masquerading as funny.

Director Noah Baumbach is best known for his writing collaborations with Wes Anderson, not as much for his former films, Kicking and Screaming, Highball, and Mr. Jealousy. Baumbach is a writer’s writer, and makes little-to-no effort to mask that fact, name-dropping at every possible turn. Squid ends up being a highly personal, intimate portrait of a family – but for Christ’s sake, what modern fiction isn’t?

written by David Ashley

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