Thursday, May 18, 2006

Review: The Squid and the Whale

I had heard a lot about this movie through NPR interviews with writer/director Noah Baumbach. I thought it was going to be an intense, serious movie about a breakup of a marriage and family. It was definitely serious, but it had something else that made it so realistic and familiar.

Laura Linney is absolutely fabulous as an actress. There's one scene where she's talking to Jeff Daniels and her face runs a gamut of emotions - first cold and hard talking to her estranged husband, then her face is lit up talking about her son's achievement and suddenly she's on the brink of tears as she realizes what is happening to their family. All within a few minutes on a doorstep conversation.

By the way, seeing Jeff Daniels as a professor in a relationship with a student reminded me of his role in "Terms of Endearment."

There are plenty of reviews on line, so I wanted to pull out another interesting point in this movie. The oldest son plagiarizes in order to win his father's approval. He has no problem reiterating what his father says without having the substance to back it up. Anna Paquin's character also confesses to plagiarizing.

Now, this brings me back to our enfant terrible, Kaavya Vishwanathan. I said in my previous blog that she was an example of an overachiever for whom success was more important than substance. I think at 17 you feel like you know more than everyone else and can do anything you want. I thought it was interesting that a similar plot line developed in this movie. So, Kaavya is probably not the first and definitely not the last.

By the way, at the end of the movie, I was left a bit exhausted by the enormity of parenting. It's a phenomenal task to guide and build a human being. Every action and expression from the parents registers in the children and it affects them in many ways. If there's one takeaway from it, it was the need to create memories because who knows what the future holds.

The ending was good as we saw the older boy learning to reject his father's life, which he had adopted and start building his.

The DVD has a nice interview with Noah Baumbach and he talks about the themes of the story (e.g., the boys have different reactions to acknowledging their parents as sexual beings, parents need to know where boundaries). Also, this movie was born from his own experiences going through his parents' divorce, so the details are there. For example, how do you have joint custody of a cat?

Definitely think we will see the two boys in more movies in the future, and hope to see more from Noah Baumbach too.

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