Based on the true childhood experiences of Noah Baumbach and his brother, The Squid and the Whale tells the touching story of two young boys dealing with their parents' divorce in Brooklyn in the 1980s.
In an apartment on Manhattan a couple of friends from the New York upper-class meet almost every night to talk about social mobility, play bridge and discuss Fourier's socialism; the cynic Nick, the philosophical Charlie, party girl Sally and austenite Audrey. They are joined by Tom. His background is much simpler and he is critical of their way of life. But he finds a soul mate in Audrey, who without his knowledge falls in love with him. Written by
METROPOLITAN has really aged well - I first saw this when it was released, and watching again a few days ago, it really stands up as something unique. Episodic and without much real plot - the only real forward motion in the film is to be found in the ending, which feels a little contrived, and is my only real gripe with this film.
At my first viewing, I didn't really want to like these characters, who all seem from another world - rich, young and good looking, carrying on through elaborate, banal, pseudo-intellectual conversations with a deadly confidence about their place in the world. But over the course of the film it becomes apparent that their secure perch in the upper echelons of the American elite isn't 100% set in stone, as an outsider is able to penetrate this rarefied universe, and manages to hold his own quite well, arousing suspicions (and battling shame over his own proletarian roots, and his battle between his own free-thinking idealism and his aggressive social climbing ambitions), but also making genuine friends among the cute young blue-bloods. Of course he isn't as smart as he thinks he is, and neither is anyone else in here, and they all know it even when behaving otherwise, which greatly humanizes these otherwise not-exactly-pleasant characters. On the strength of the dialog, METROPOLITAN has become something of a cult classic, and deservedly so.
In a strange way, METROPOLITAN is almost a companion piece to the surreal and disturbing documentary GREY GARDENS - both are centered upon characters from the well-bred, wealthy elite of American old-$ society. As METROPOLITAN insinuated that the security, intellect, status and wealth of its' characters isn't as rock-solid as the characters would like everyone to think, GREY GARDENS illustrates, in lurid detail just how psychologically destabilizing a precipitous fall from such a lofty, but artificial world would be - you could easily see an aged variant of one of METROPOLITAN's character's ending up like the Edies from GREY GARDENS.
The probable best from the very non-prolific Stilman, I strongly recommend.
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