Noah Baumbach rivals Wes Anderson as one of the most important filmmakers of the 21st century, in my opinion. Reason being, he creates depth in superficiality; he makes memorable characters with consequential flaws which make it impossible not to fancy them.
The Squid and the Whale documents the divorce of two talented writers, played by Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney and the effects it has on their two sons. The shared custody has the boys moving from each parent’s house every other night.
The sons, played by Owen Kline and Jesse Eisenberg, truly make the film as interesting as it is. Each one completely immortalizes one of their parents and aspires to be either like their mother or father, and despises the other.
As dramatic and painfully real as the film can be, it is also highlighted with bursts of comedic brilliance. The scenes with Ivan, the tennis coach, played by one of the lesser known Baldwin brothers are always good for a laugh. As is the hilarious parody of Pink Floyd’s “Hey You” featured throughout the movie. Dry wit is also present in the most interesting of places, such as the family meetings.
However, the film is quite serious and does have heart wrenching sequences. The drama is eloquently done, with exceptional acting, especially on the part of the young actors. The script contains many intelligent narratives that add to the film’s personality. Each scene builds not only plot, but also character.
Why You Must See This Film
Because the divorce is the largest element of the film, there is plenty of emotional baggage being plunged from each character. But as mentioned before, it is the effect on the boys that makes the film completely memorable. Both Frank and Walt embark on having weird quarks, from public masturbation to underage drinking and violating copyright laws.
The way the brothers pick sides, one with their mother and one with their father leaves them feeling desperate and afraid. The relationships between these family divisions provides for great dialogue and interesting situations. But also, the breaking down of the barriers between the two divisions because of the children is touching. This element adds an important key to the plot and makes the film more than the typical emotion-saturated drama.