Monday, April 17, 2006


Title: The Squid And The Whale.
Cast: Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Jesse Eisenberg, Owen Kline, Halley Feiffer, Anna Paquin, William Baldwin
Director: Noah Baumbach

Bernard (Jeff Bridges) and Joan’s (Laura Linney) marriage is not working. Their two sons have started to see the signs. The shouting, the fighting. Eventually they have to split, taking joint custody of the children. Despite its intention this puts the two boys under enormous pressure and it isn’t long before they start to break.

Bernard is a once great writer. A pretentious shit of a man. Filled with startling illusions of his own grandeur. Illusions with which he has brainwashed his older son, who is fast on his way to becoming a pretentious shit of a man, without the benefit of having actually read any of the books that he spouts forth about. He blames his mother for the break up, accusing her of dropping Bernard because of his flagging career, especially as hers is just taking off. The fact that she had an affair doesn’t help, but given just how much of a complete shit Bernard is, who could blame her?

The Squid And The Whale is a film that follows the break up of a family. Set in 1986, the film is shot in such a way that it takes on the feel of actually having been filmed in 1986. Which to a degree is kind of a curious effect, unless it was just a side effect of being made cheaply? The performances by the four leads are strong and intense, but given just how thoroughly dislikeable Bernard and his son are and the general negativity of emotions on display, one does start to wonder why one bothered. To a degree with the strength of those two male characters, Linney is overwhelmed, we don’t really get into her – other than as a distraught woman who is too quick to talk about personal detail.

The meaning of the title doesn’t become clear until quite near the end and is actually the point where we actually start to get some sense of redemption from the film.

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