Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Squid and the Whale (2005)

Joan (Laura Linney): You're early.
Bernard (Jeff Daniels): Hi, Joan.
Joan: Don't feed him the generic stuff.
Bernard: What?
Joan: Frank says you're feeding the cat generic food. Get Purina, it's what he likes.
Bernard: It's the same damn thing, Joan.
Joan: OK. It's not, but...
Bernard: He's my cat, too. Remember when he got stuck in the wall in New Hampshire and I rescued him? I know how to handle him.
Joan: It was a radiator.
Bernard: What?
Joan: He got stuck in a radiator. You trimmed your beard.
Bernard: Yeah, it was starting to get a little feral. You look well.
Joan: Yeah? Thanks.
Bernard: Things are good here. Teaching is going well. And I'm playing the best tennis of my life. Maybe that's an illusion, but... it feels that way.

Two young boys, Walt (Jesse Eisenberg) and Frank (Owen Kline) deal with the unexpected divorce of their parents in different ways. The father (Jeff Daniels) is a once-successful writer who has become cold and unfeeling, perhaps because of his loss of success or talent. The mother (Laura Linney) is a newly successful writer who is beginning to feel stifled. The dry humor in the first 30 minutes, particularly as delivered by the snobby but clueless Daniels, is the highlight, as is the resolution. At a short running time of 88 minutes, it wastes no space, relying on crafty dialogue to portray the character’s feelings. The gentle, Michael Cera-like performance by Eisenberg is the focal point, with Walt the focal character. Unusual and worthwhile; an impressive semi-autobiographical effort by writer/dreict Noah Baumbach.Rating: 3 of 4 reviewed 5 Jan 2008

"One of those rare films in which everything feels right ... [with an] underlying witty melancholy that suggests a filmmaker fully locked into his groove."
- Andrew Wright (The Stranger - Seattle, WA)

"Baumbach crams an impressive amount of characterization and humor into 82 minutes."
- Pete Vonder Haar (Film Threat)

"A literate, sharply observed film that juggles tragic and comedic elements to achieve a wonderfully distinctive tone."
- Frank Swietek (One Guy's Opinion)

"Baumbach still feels such word-inflicted wounds and draws on them to create some wrenching drama, speckled with touches of caustic comedy."
- Phil Villarreal (Arizona Daily Star)

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