March 25, 2006

Noah Baumbach, USA 2005

The Squid and the Whale has an obvious (and distracting) relative in Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums. the quirky characters, the precocious dialogue, Baumbach's film always brings you back to the revered Anderson flick. but this is Baumbach's film; not Anderson's. so let's see it for what it is. Bernard Berkman (Jeff Daniels) is married to Joan (Laura Linney) and they have two sons, Walt (Jesse Eisenberg) and Frank (Owen Kline). somewhere along the line, things disintegrate. end of story. so it's a small tale of a family falling apart. it feels personal but never bitter. Baumbach is always able to pin the emotional truth of the characters and the actors (minus the miscast, or misread, Laura Linney as the cold mother) surprise you with their candor. candor. i guess that would be the word that best sums up this exercise. Noah Baumbach doesn't use the quirkiness as character traits. they're more flavour than the base of his tale. in that, the tone of the film is more dry and down-to-earth than cartoonish. and i appreciated the melancholic touches (mostly done through Walt's eyes) that Baumbach added. they grounded the film in a reality that touched on the teenage exprerience. it is distracting, but if you can be open enough to look past the Anderson similarities, this film is a funny, touching, quiet, and sensitively melancholic work with some extraordinary performances (especially from Jesse Eisenberg and Owen Kline).

Posted by Sam | 10:03 AM |