|SiGN UP! join
the DigsNews mailing list + we'll keep you posted about updates and other DIGS-related news .
any good movies lately?
and recommend it.
support digs ... shop for movies and more at the digsShop, or donate to digs directly!
It's 1980s Brooklyn and teenaged Walt and his pre-pubescent little
brother Frank find themselves caught in the crossfire as their parents,
Bernard and Joan, wage war against one another. Both parents are
writers, though at different stages of their careers. Bernard earned
some measure of literary acclaim years back, but is now struggling to
find a publisher for his latest work; Joan started writing later, but
is on the verge of becoming a major success. They're heading in different
directions -- both in their work, and in their lives. In not-so-friendly
family tennis matches and barely civil evening meals, they snipe over
petty quibbles and simmer angrily in the silences in between. One
evening, Bernard and Joan sit the kids down to announce that after
seventeen years of marriage, they're going to divorce. In a crazy
attempt to make things "fair", Bernard and Joan decide that
the kids will switch houses every other night of the week, never mind
that Bernard's new place is a long trek from their old house (and in
a state of semi-shambles to boot). Walt and Frank can't seem to help
choose sides, with Walt hero-worshipping his coldly intellectual father
and Frank clinging to his more nurturing mom. As everyone tries to
figure out how to negotiate the new family dynamic, Frank and Walt find
themselves learning more than they ever wanted to know about the messy
lives of the two folks they've always just thought of as Mom and Dad,
and doing some serious thinking about what they want for their own
selves as well.
Back when the boy and I were planning our wedding, I remember the
florist asking us at one point, "And how many sets of parents do
we have?" "Just the one set on each side," we answered.
To which the florist said, "Really? That's pretty unusual these
days." With divorces and remarriages, new girlfriends and new
boyfriends, the traditional one mom working with one dad to raise their
one set of kids has apparently become a bit of a rarity. Divorce happens
all the time, and legal terms like joint custody are such a part of the
public lexicon that everyone knows what they mean -- or rather, thinks
they do. Because as The Squid and the Whale shows, the reality
of what it feels like to be a child of divorce is something that's far,
more complicated than words can really convey. Noah Baumbach's film has
the look of a Wes Anderson movie (in fact, Anderson is credited as a
producer, and the two co-wrote The Life Aquatic) -- visually,
there's a lot that feels reminiscent of The
Royal Tenenbaums, and even thematically, there's a definite
overlap. Because of this superficial resemblance, I went into this flick
expecting, well, a Wes Anderson film. But unlike Anderson, Baumbach
doesn't play his drama for laughs. There are bits that are quite funny
-- Bernard is particularly good at spouting amusing pomposities -- but
what you get from The Squid and the Whale is mostly a feeling
of discomfort at how real the pain is that everyone's feeling, and how
they all are at actually expressing it, despite how rational and
intellectual they pride themselves on being. These characters aren't
charmingly quirky so much as weird and sad, messed-up and petty --
frankly, there's not a whole lot of fun in this dysfunctional family.
Still, you can't bring yourself to hate any of them. Even when they're
and saying awful/disturbing things -- which all four of the family
members do, at one time or another -- Baumbach and his stellar cast
ensure that we can kinda sorta understand why they're being so terrible.
by Yee-Fan Sun
lounge . nourish
. host .
. home .