Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Arr! I got nothing against ye, squiddy

Finally managed to see "The Squid and the Whale" yesterday at Mariemont. It's an acutely observed miniature of a family going through divorce, told mostly from the kids' point of view. You watch the two boys (Owen Kline and the increasingly hot Jesse Eisenberg) shift allegiances between their parents and deal with all the weirdness of adolescence. Jeff Daniels has gotten a lot of praise for his performance as the asshole English-professor dad ("'A Tale of Two Cities'? One of Dickens' minor works. Why do teachers always assign an author's worst books?"), and it's richly deserved. He's awful but you never stop feeling for him, even at his slimiest. The film manages to be stylized and emotionally honest at the same time. It was co-produced by Wes Anderson (the writer and director, Noah Baumbach, cowrote Anderson's "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou") and there are some similarities to "The Royal Tenenbaums" - the houses of the two parents are almost characters in their own right, for example. But this movie is laced with more bitterness, right from the opening scene when the family is playing tennis and Jeff Daniels tells his son to aim for his mother's weak backhand. Still, you never lose affection for any of them, even as the film makes you see how they can devastate each other.

Behind me in the theater, a lady was telling her companion that her cat had recently run away - they opened the front door and it just bolted out. Oddly, that happens in the closing scene of the movie. I could hear the lady gasp.

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