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THE SQUID AND THE WHALE

Director: NOAH BAUMBACH

U.S.A. • 2005 • COLOUR • DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO • 81 MIN.


NOMINATED FOR BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY AT THIS YEAR’S OSCARS, THIS SHARPLY OBSERVED FAMILY DRAMA PRESENTS A BITINGLY FUNNY PORTRAIT OF THE EMOTIONAL FALL-OUT FROM A MIDDLE CLASS DIVORCE.
His once promising writing career on the slide, selfabsorbed novelist Bernard Berkman (Jeff Daniels) has to content himself with the fawning praise of his star-struck student mistress, Lili (Anna Paquin). His newly liberated wife Joan (Laura Linney), by contrast, has just had a story accepted by the New Yorker. Yet she too seeks sexual solace, in the muscular arms of her tennis coach, Ivan (William Baldwin). Caught in the crossfire are 16-year-old Walt (Jesse Eisenberg), who lives with and idolises his father; 12-year-old Frank (Owen Kline), who shares the ex-familial home with his mother; and the family cat, which is shunted between the two houses. Set in 1980s Brooklyn and awash with songs from Pink Floyd, Tangerine Dream, Loudon Wainwright III and Anna McGarrigle, this might so easily have been one of those identikit Sundance movies: semi-autobiographical and cloyingly nostalgic. But writer-director Noah Baumbach sidesteps these pitfalls by presenting an unblinking child’s eye view of the domestic tensions, adolescent alienation and cultured bourgeois angst. Neither does he lapse into the smug, self-satisfied cleverness which afflicts the work of The Royal Tenenbaums’ creator Wes Anderson (with whom Baumbach co-wrote The Life Aquatic). Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney brilliantly convey the parents’ faults and
foibles, while Eisenberg and Kline capture their teenage sons’ pretension, confusion and pain. Candid and captivating, this is an Indie comic gem.—Nigel Floyd

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