The Squid and the Whale (2005)

DailyView: Day 138, Movie 213

The DailyView choice today is a coming of age drama focused on a couple’s nasty split and how it affected their two sons. The name of the movie came from the American Museum of Natural History exhibit/diorama, The Squid and the Whale.

Bernard (Jeff Daniels) and Joan (Laura Linney) were married, but growing apart. Joan had been unfaithful and Bernard was an intellectual snob and they were not happy. The separation was particularly hard on their sons, Walt (Jesse Eisenberg) and Frank (Owen Kline), with each boy bonding with the opposite parent. Walt becoming more like his father, struggling with his relationships and pretending that the song Hey You by Pink Floyd was his creation. On the other hand, Frank began drinking beer and masturbating, spreading his sperm in strange places.

Meanwhile, both Bernard and Joan started different relationships to a varying success. Joan stated dating Frank’s tennis instructor Ivan (William Baldwin) and one of Bernard’s students, Lili (Anna Paquin), moved in with him.

You have four distinct characters who all have major problems, energized by the failed relationship of the parents. It is a fascinating look at these people who have made so many poor choices in their lives. The performances of these four actors carry the movie and are engaging as can be.

There are some scenes that are truly brutal between Bernard and Joan and the words they use cut deep to the kids. The third act confrontation was difficult to watch as Walt and Frank were literally between their parents.

Director Noah Baumbach tells the semi-autobiographical tale of two boys in Brooklyn. The direction of the film is outstanding and builds a tone of discomfort with the characters and the audience as well.

The soundtrack was great, with a variety of songs from Pink Floyd’s Hey You to Figure 8 of the Schoolhouse Rock collection.

The Squid and the Whale was not a movie that I was familiar with and it is a shame that a film this good is under the radar.

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