By working through problems stemming from his past, Tom Warshaw, an American artist living in Paris, begins to discover who he really is, and returns to his home to reconcile with his family and friends.
A young Jewish American man endeavors to find the woman who saved his grandfather during World War II in a Ukrainian village, that was ultimately razed by the Nazis, with the help of an eccentric local.
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.
On their son Odell's 13the birthday, graphic artist Tom Warszaw finally confesses to his wife why he fled Greenwich Village, NYC at that age to Paris. As a schoolboy, naturally sensitive, considerate Tommy was best buddy with 'adult' half-wit Pappass, father Duncan's Catholic school's assistant janitor. Smothered by his dependent mother, a dumb orderly, Tommy got 'parental advice' from a women's prison inmate. Together with Pappas, he saves up tips from their butchery delivery rounds. One night, Pappas steals the bike they were saving for. Tommy tries to take the blame, but ends up expelled as if the instigator. Even more tragic consequences follow. Written by
Set mostly in a flashback to 1973 New York City, this is at heart not a coming of age movie but a coming to terms movie. From the opening scenes in Paris, we're set up by a voice-over narrative to expect terrible events which would change a boy's life. And, true to its word, we are delivered a series of disasters, many of which are prefigured in a short-handed kind of way. But it doesn't really matter, because you know where the film is heading, and your reaction to the last 15 minutes coming out of the flashbacks will pretty much determine whether you like this film or not. (Note that the ratings here are split pretty dramatically between very positive and very negative.) The things that are right with the film are good, sometimes very good. At the top of the "good" list is Erykah Badu's outstanding performance as a prisoner in the Women's House of Detention , an urban jail with windows over the street, who offers conversation and advice to the young protagonist. Also, the evocative period setting, which puts to shame a lot of films with many times the budget. Finally, there are a few deft touches of humor in the dialog, particularly in the early scenes of school life. The other performances are a bit more uneven. Anton Yelchin, the younger version of Duchony's character, is often winning and natural, but when real crisis hits, I didn't buy his grief and desperation. Not knowing the Robin Williams role, I cringed a bit when he first appeared on screen, but his performance is for the most part fairly restrained -- at least by Robin Williams' standards. Ducovny and wife Tea Leoni were competent but not compelling. We saw this film at a preview that featured a Q&A with Ducovny afterward. He clearly has affection for the material and, if anything, set out to make an even more modest film, budget-wise, than this. This is potentially pretty dicey plot material and could have veered severely wrong, particularly toward sloppy sentimentality. While I don't think the film entirely escaped this, it's certain a better film than, say, the dreadfully manipulative, "The Notebook". If you're not expecting too much and you can appreciate the 70's period setting, you'll probably enjoy this. If you're expecting a genius writer-director first film out of Ducovny -- you will be disappointed. Bottom line: give Ducovny some space and let's wait for his second film before delivering an real judgment on his career as writer-director.
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