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.
We like Florence: she's considerate, sweet, pretty, and terrific with kids and dogs. She's twenty-five, personal assistant to an L.A. family that's off on vacation. Her boss's brother comes in from New York City, fresh from a stay at an asylum, to take care of the house. He's Roger, a forty-year-old carpenter, gone from L.A. for fifteen years. He arrives, doesn't drive, and needs Florence's help, especially with the family's dog. He's also connecting with former band-mates - two men and one woman with whom he has a history. He over-analyzes, has a short fuse, and doesn't laugh at himself easily. As he navigates past and present, he's his own saboteur. And what of Florence? is Roger one more responsibility for her or something else? Written by
A poster of the band Prinzhorn Dance School can be seen on the wall where Greenberg hangs the drawing made by Florence' niece. It's a reference to LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy, who was responsible for the soundtrack. Murphy is the boss of the DFA record label, who released the 'Prinzhorn Dance School' album. See more »
The clothes worn by Greenberg, Florence and Ivan in some scenes include sweaters and jackets that would normally be too warm for Los Angeles, especially when some other characters are wearing swimming gear. See more »
Written by James Murphy and Al Doyle
Produced and Performed by James Murphy
Courtesy of DFA Records/EMI Records Ltd.
James Murphy appears courtesy of DFA Records/EMI Records Ltd. See more »
Greetings again from the darkness. Noah Baumbach wrote and directed the excellent "The Squid and the Whale", and it is with "Greenberg" that he really makes a statement as an independent filmmaker to anticipate. The second gem is always the most elusive. That said, I am not sure I can recommend this movie to very many people, despite all the good things I am about to write.
This is the first Ben Stiller role that actually seems to fit him. His typical role is as a punchline. Here, he plays a guy who recently suffered a nervous breakdown and is now house-sitting for his rich brother, whose family is vacationing in Vietnam. Throughout the movie, Greenberg states he is concentrating on doing "nothing" right now. Of course, that is his defense mechanism for being unable to connect or communicate with any real person. Yes, that sounds bleak ... and it is. Yet, it is also fascinating and thought-provoking.
Despite Stiller's strong turn, Greta Gerwig (as Florence) proves to be the heart of the story. She is the family assistant to Greenberg's brother and finds herself oddly attracted to Greenberg's vulnerable state. This is my first exposure to Ms. Gerwig and I find her fascinating as an actress. She has a natural openness on screen and is certainly no glamour-gal. Instead she comes across as a very real 25 year old trying to make sense of life - especially her own.
In addition to Ms. Gerwig, Rhys Ifans provides outstanding support work as Greenberg's long ago band mate. This is the polar opposite of Ifan's character in "The Boat that Rocked" as here is just a guy putting together a grown up life for himself. He struggles with the adjustment, but accurately depicts how choices can make or break us.
I am not sure whether to categorize this as a character study or just an exquisitely written series of scenes that hit the nail on the head. One of the best scenes of the film is when Stiller meets up with Jennifer Jason Leigh and she immediately rebuffs his reconciliation attempts. They had been a couple briefly 15 years ago and she has obviously moved on. Excellent film-making.
The best way I can describe Greenberg the character is that he is a compilation of the dark thought that we all experience from time to time ... a desire to do nothing, wanting to be blunt and direct, dreams of recapturing the magic of youth, and of course, writing complaint letters for everything wrong in the world. Obviously, most of us spend very little real time on these things, but that is the Greenberg character. Let's keep an eye on Mr. Baumbach - he may just be the real deal.
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