Thursday, August 31, 2006

DVD: The Squid and the Whale

• Divorce and dysfunction. Gather 'round for the laughs!

Genres: Drama, divorce
DVD released: March 21, 2006
Director: Noah Baumbach
Cast: Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Jesse Eisenberg, Owen Kline, William Baldwin
Verdict: &&&

The Squid and the Whale never for a second convincingly evokes its time setting of 1986, but it does capture the turbulent emotions of a family breakdown. While his marriage disintegrates, Bernard (Jeff Daniels), a pompous novelist, can't bear to see his wife, Joan (Laura Linney), successfully launch her first novel while his own career bottoms out. Meanwhile, their two boys, 12-year-old Frank (Owen Kline) and 16-year-old Walt (Jesse Eisenberg), ride the bumpy seesaw of joint custody. Not that the boys don't already have some issues: Frank, portrayed with bitter intensity by Kline, is a blossoming alcoholic and accomplished pervert, and Walt attempts to pass off a Pink Floyd song as his own in a talent contest. Each character has a talent for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, tweaking the open wounds. The ache is offset by humorous counterpoints, such as William Baldwin as an oafish tennis instructor. This is one of those character pieces that offers no resolution, but the journey is worthy. // DVD notes // Extras are a featurette and interview with the director. Heed the R rating.

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