Film: The Squid and the Whale

Cast includes: Jeff Daniels (Imaginary Heroes), Laura Linney (Mystic River), Jesse Eisenberg (Roger Dodger), Owen Kline
Screenwriter/director: Noah Baumbach
Genre: Family drama

In brief: The film opens on a scene of a family tennis match… Dad and the oldest son vs Mom and the youngest son. (Does that sound fair to you?) It’s obvious that this is not your good-natured, friendly family outing. The setting is Brooklyn, 1989. The Berkmans live in a lovely brownstone in Park Slope (if you forgive the 1989 décor), but it doesn’t take long to figure out that things aren’t as happy as they used to be.

Dad is an author who hasn’t been published recently. In the meantime, Mom has been getting some recognition in the literary world with her recent books and magazine articles. Dad feels compelled to offer his expertise. “ Did you take my advice on the ending,” he asks, regarding the novel she is working on. “Some of it” “What does that mean? Does the character still die in the end?” “Yes.” “Then you didn’t take my advice.”

It comes as no surprise when Mom and Dad announce that they are getting a divorce. The surprise comes when the oldest son, Walt, is packing his bag to go live with Dad’s. He blames everything on Mom, “This would never have happened if you hadn’t started writing? Don’t you know that Dad is the writer in the family? Why did you have to go and ruin it for everyone?” Ouch! Get ready for a rough ride.

popcorn rating

3 popped kernels

Popped kernels for an insightful drama about a disfunctional family. It's a lot more interesting than one would expect. Good acting, excellent script.

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