Seaworld Struggles

23-Jul-08 10:38 AM by
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Over the past year, I've heard of the film The Squid and the Whale from two sources. The first was my chiropractor, himself something of a philosopher, who'd also successfully suggested to me the film The Razor's Edge. The second is from a list entitled "20 Essential Break Up Movies". Those are two very different contexts in which to receive the same film recommendation — so, my curiosity piqued, I checked it out of the library.

The film, set in 1983 Brooklyn, bears many similarities to Blue Car: we have two children of the same gender struggling with the fallout of a broken home — the younger is the more outwardly distressed, while the older one flirts with romance. There's also a teacher open to having an affair with a student. The differences between The Squid and the Whale and Blue Car is that, here, we see the divorce happening, making its impact more immediate with both parents present.

Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney play the troubled couple, each with a Ph.D in English. Mr. Daniels plays his character with such ego and arrogance that it's easy to cast him as the villain, but just because his flaws are given more screen time does not mean that his spouse has none of her own. Their two boys each favor a different parent, coping with the stress of separation in a manner roughly analogous to how their preferred parent brought about the divorce. It's intriguing to hear the son speak to his girlfriend with the same words we earlier heard exchanged between his father and mother. But separation does not cure what ails this family, as each parent confuses the situation by quickly moving on to a new love interest (in Mr. Daniels' case, that being a flirty Anna Paquin). All four family members are desperate for attention, but none are confident in what kind of attention they want or need.

The film is roughly autobiographical of its writer and director, Noah Baumbach. At 81 minutes, it's also makes for a short viewing session, but I found its length just right for a view into the times and trials of a broken home, without the drama or creepiness of Blue Car.

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