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.
With only the plan of moving in together after high school, two unusually devious friends seek direction in life. As a mere gag, they respond to a man's newspaper ad for a date, only to find it will greatly complicate their lives.
In 1986, In Brooklyn, New York, the dysfunctional family of pseudo intellectuals composed by the university professor Bernard and the prominent writer Joan split. Bernard is a selfish, cheap and jealous decadent writer that rationalizes every attitude in his family and life and does not accept "philistines" - people that do not read books or watch movies, while the unfaithful Joan is growing as a writer and has no problems with "philistines". Their sons, the teenager Walt and the boy Frank, feel the separation and take side: Walt stays with Bernard, and Frank with Joan, and both are affected with abnormal behaviors. Frank drinks booze and smears with sperm the books in the library and a locker in the dress room of his school. The messed-up and insecure Walt uses Roger Water's song "Hey You" in a festival as if it was of his own, and breaks with his girlfriend Sophie. Meanwhile Joan has an affair with Frank's tennis teacher Ivan and Bernard with his student Lili. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Noah Baumbach takes a loving (oh?) stab at his parents' divorce, brought on by the hilariously immature antics of his father, and my writing professor, the ever pompous Jonathan Baumbach (Jeff Daniels).
Brooklyn College was a hotbed of activism and liberal arts when I first encountered Jonathan Baumbach (rechristened "Bernard" in the film, a sly wink at Jonathan's mentor and hero, Bernard Malamud). The arrogance and complete lack of self awareness is perfectly captured by Daniels in his over-the-top performance which, amazingly, underplays the actual father.
To call the picture patricidal is to completely miss the point; Baumbach pere is so self centered, he likely sees the film as an homage. Baumbach Sr. is a great writer; he receives good reviews in the literary journals and his books sell in the hundreds. Baumbach Jr., on the other hand, is a great filmmaker, and his movies (The Life Aquatic) are seen by millions. I'm sure the father is disappointed that the son isn't pursuing tenure at a small Ohio college.
I saw this film in a cozy college theater at the Toronto Film Festival. I half expected to run into Jonathan Baumbach, in his leather patched tweed jacket, preening for the audience and eying the coeds.
Funny and poignant. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll want to choke the bastard.
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