The Squid and the Whale
Winter 2006 Edge series
Sunday, January 15, 2006 at 4:00pm
Sunday, January 15, 2006 at 7:00pm
Rated 14A ·
Screened at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival and winner of the prizes for best direction and screenwriting at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, The Squid and the Whale is a dramatic yet funny coming of age story set against the elite literary backdrop of eighties Brooklyn.
Finding it progressively difficult to live together in their Brooklyn brownstone, Bernard (Jeff Daniels, Pleasantville) and Joan (Laura Linney, Kinsey) are long past the point of saving their marriage. Both have PhDs in literature and are published writers, though Bernard’s success has gone to seed while Joan’s career is blossoming. As they enter into a seemingly amicable separation, their two sons seem to be caught in the middle. Bernard moves to the far side of Prospect Park, taking his sons on alternate nights filled with shameless self-pitying and arrogant comments.
Teenaged Walt (Jesse Eisenberg, Roger Dodger) increasingly chooses to emulate his father’s pompous and pretentious mannerisms by disparaging classmates and schoolwork and, eventually, his mother with thoughtless, hurtful quips. Eventually Walt turns against Joan, helped every step of the way by his father, and moves in permanently with Bernard. Walt’s younger brother Frank (Owen Kline, The Anniversary Party) gravitates toward his mother in this time of crisis while simultaneously coping with his gawky sexual awakening and a keen taste for alcohol.
Complications arise as Joan begins seeing Frank’s tennis coach (William Baldwin, Backdraft) and one of Bernard’s young students (Anna Paquin, Almost Famous) moves into his house. Walt begins to have girl problems of his own, and Frank’s sexual pursuits land him in trouble at school. Inspired performances by Daniels and Linney propel the film while Eisenberg gives a superbly nuanced performance as a teenager who comes to the momentous conclusion that his parents aren’t perfect. Based on autobiographical events in writer-director Noah Baumbach’s (The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou) life, The Squid and the Whale offers a compelling look at the toll a divorce takes on a family.