I really like THE SQUID AND THE WHALE. Despite the somewhat hammy ending, to my mind, writer/director Noah Baumbach has delivered a charming, often hillarious, often painful movie. Despite the similarity in feel to a Wes Anderson or even certain types of Woody Allen movie, the subject matter of the film feels really fresh and interesting. There have been films about flawed people with fractious relationships before, but rarely one that explores with such honesty, authenticty and good humour the impact of divorce on young kids, and how learning that our parents can be wrong is the first step in growing up. Every member of the cast turns in a great performance, from Jeff Daniels as the narcissistic, judgmental academic father to Owen Kline as the absurdly cool, cute but messed up kid brother. Anna Paquin is always fantastic, but I also liked Hailey Feiffer as the elder son's girlfriend. When he says something cruel to her, you can feel her teenage heart breaking. All in all, this film wears its indie heart on its sleeve, but, with the exception of the final few minutes, is never pretentious or manipulative. And as an added bonus, the movie is set in the mid-80s so there is plenty of opportunity to get nostalgic about Jimmy Connors, skinny black jeans and Short Circuit. I still have a smile on my face thinking about it and I can't ask for more than that.
THE SQUID AND THE WHALE premiered at Sundance 2005 where Noah Baumbach won the Best Director and Best Screenplay awards. It opens in the UK on April 7th 2006, in Germany on May 11th and in France on May 31st.