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.
Iris invites her friend Jack to stay at her family's island getaway after the death of his brother. At their remote cabin, Jack's drunken encounter with Hannah, Iris' sister, kicks off a revealing stretch of days.
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 »
In the final scene just after Roger received the second doll he walks screen right. As the camera pans with his movement, it appears as though the camera is visible in the bathroom mirror at the back of the scene. See more »
Well acted but ultimately just too folded up in itself for my liking
I remember hearing good things about this film quite some time ago mainly about relating to Stiller being in it and not playing to his usual character but doing something more "worthy", things like that. I'm never quite sure how to take praise like that, because it seems to be more to do with lauding intension rather than output, so I didn't watch this film until very recently. The opening few scenes let you in on this being an indie film, by which I mean specifically the type that will appeal to hipsters and annoy those that dislike hipsters.
I don't simply dislike films with this target audience, I really liked Noah & The Whale for example, but I do have a problem when this type of film really just goes to town on itself. I felt that was the case here and now I understand why Stiller's involvement was the main bit of praise I heard because it really is the main thing to say about it. The story goes along slowly without any real direction other than the rambling life of Roger and his mood swings, overthinking and inherent selfishness but in fairness it is not a film to be watched for start/middle/end in the narrative. Instead it has a quite natural flow to it that I found reasonably engaging so it kept me listening, kept me interested but other than the tone I'm really not sure why. The main characters are really very self-involved and caught up in their own importance and not in a way that they go from there but rather in a way where this is who they are throughout the film. They are well written and well delivered as characters but the film becomes like them and I was generally put off by how the whole thing started to seem smug and inward looking whereas what I really wanted was someone to come along and just shake them till they got a hold of themselves.
As annoying as I found his character, Stiller is actually very good; he totally gets his character and he plays it consistently and without any suggestion of ego of being the major Hollywood player that he is. He works well with mumblecore favourite Gerwig, who is doing her usual performance and just about manages it because she is likable whereas Stiller's character is less so. The supporting cast features small turns from Ifans, Leigh and a few others, all of whom give similar folded-in performances and match the tone of the film without making much of their time. The look of Baumbach's film is good but as writer/director he just seems happy to sit and watch his characters as they consider their own belly-buttons and on this occasion it just didn't do enough to work he got a good performance from Stiller for sure, but beyond that? Little.
Greenberg is what you have heard a vehicle for a comedian to prove they have value/talent by doing "proper" acting in a small indie film; I can see why Stiller did it and he does give a strong performance throughout. A shame then that there was so little else to talk about. The characters are hard to like and the film lets them just spin around each other in a way that is reasonably interesting but ultimately goes nowhere and does nothing, the end result being this feeling of inward looking smugness that one can get away with, but only in a film stronger than this one.
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