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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.
Poppy Cross is happy-go-lucky. At 30, she lives in Camden: cheeky, playful, frank while funny, and talkative to strangers. She's a conscientious and exuberant primary-school teacher, flatmates with Zoe, her long-time friend; she's close to one sister, and not so close to another. In this slice of life story, we watch her take driving lessons from Scott, a dour and tightly-wound instructor, take classes in flamenco dance from a fiery Spaniard, encounter a tramp in the night, and sort out a student's aggressive behavior with a social worker's help. Along the way, we wonder if her open attitude puts her at risk of misunderstanding or worse. What is the root of happiness? Written by
Having read some critiques to the extent that this was a film about a naive, childish woman who refused to take life seriously, I was hesitant whether I'd be able to bear this movie.
Luckily, it turned out to be one of the most entertaining cinema experiences since quite a long time.
Poppy isn't the person refusing to become an adult which her misanthropic driving instructor Scott accuses her to be. Our time indeed seems to bring about such people but they could hardly be more different than this lovely young woman. The first scene, with the girls drunk and chatting nonsense, is perhaps a bit misleading on this issue. (In fact, several people left the cinema during this scene, seemingly annoyed of all the giggling.) Rather, Poppy is wise and strong, trying to see the positive in everyone and everything. Humour, and sometimes benign derision, are her ways of keeping sulkiness out of her life. But, as everyone with a heart should feel, that is a gift, not a deficit. What damage can it cause to have a nice word or a smile for your fellow humans? On the other hand, she doesn't shut her eyes on the sad sides of life, such as a traumatized homeless man or a boy beaten by his mother's new partner, and one understands that she is deeply sad about not being able to help Scott, even if she would have had every reason to simply hate him for his bad temper, his racism and his stalking.
The director has done a superb job with this production; it is packed with intelligent, witty dialogs and convincingly drawn characters.
Our world needs a lot more people like Poppy, or at least -- if they don't possess her strength and optimism -- people who are sympathetic with her values instead of feeling threatened by humaneness. Yes, life is difficult and often sad, so let's tackle it with a smile!
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