Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Squid and the Whale (2005)

Very much a writer's movie, for better and worse. On the upside, the careful attention to dramatic and character detail is impressive and results in a number of funny and/or lovely moments. Furthermore, it has enough confidence to show its characters behaving like unsympathetic jerks without fearing that the audience will lose sympathy for these people (the majority of the behavior is kept grounded in realistic situations). But alas, this is all building to some kind of larger meaning, as most writer-centric movies do, and the author is hellbent on making sure we don't miss that significance. The last half hour, then, replaces the delicacies of the first two acts with clunky symbols and elbow-in-the-ribs dialogue. (Just look at that title -- you don't have to spell everything out, Mr. Baumbach.) I still respect this film, and there's a lot of things I like about it. In particular, I was duly impressed with the way Baumbach handles the awkward, budding sexuality of his younger characters. Fumbling, uncomfortable and just over the line of lashing-out, it speaks to a certain understanding that Miranda July's spectacularly naive Me and You and Everyone We Know tried to demonstrate with little success. I was all prepared to love this for accurately capturing the sloppiness and confusion of life, especially teenage life; sadly, Baumbach pulled back the curtain and revealed his work to be entirely too tidy after all. P.S.: The acting is excellent.

Grade: B-


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