Squid and the Whale, The (USA; 80 min.)

directed by: Noah Baumbach
starring: Jeff Daniels; Laura Linney; Jesse Eisenberg
The Squid and the Whale
Michael says: "Noah Baumbach’s look at an intellectual family coming apart at the seams is funny and mildly horrifying at the same time. Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney play a pair of authors with two children. Daniels’ Bernard Berkham is an professor whose first book was published to much critical acclaim years before. Now after finding a small audience of intellectuals, his subsequent book not having performed as well, he is struggling to find a new publisher. His wife Joan (played by Laura Linney) has just had her first story published in the New Yorker, and has received a publishing deal for a novel. Bernard is a repulsive snob, frowning down upon anyone who doesn’t meet his standards of culture. Their older son Walt is following in his father’s footsteps, while young Owen is closer to his mother. When Bernard and Joan decide to get divorced, they arrange joint custody of their two children, which causes emotional strife in the family.

"Baumbach, who wrote and directed, paints Bernard as an extremely unpleasant person whose snobbery is a source of several laughs, even as you are horrified by his behavior. Joan is painted slightly more sympathetic, but is also drawn warts and all, as a woman who needs to spend some time on herself and has less time to focus on her children who are clearly suffering. The Berkham’s tale of a crumbling family is a sad one that isn’t neatly tied up in the final frames of the film. While enjoyable, there isn’t a strong emotional connection to the characters which makes it less compelling as it could be. Performances by the four principals are all strong, and I was also surprised at how well Anna Paquin pulled off a small, often cliched supporting role. 3 ½ cats"