The Best Movies of the 2000s (#28)

#28.  The Squid and the Whale [2005]: Noah Baumbach wrote and directed this quirky “dramedy” that revolves around the struggles of a family torn apart by divorce.  As the son of film critics, The Squid and the Whale, is also semi-autobiographical in that it closely parallels events in his own life.  His parents were writers/film critics that divorced during his teen years.  Appropriately, the movie is set in the 80s and the parents here- played brilliantly by Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney- are writers.

Normally a family drama about divorce would simply be just that.  Yet the humor here is undeniable.  It’s almost as if Wes Anderson did a remake of Kramer vs. Kramer (not coincidentally, the film was produced by Anderson).  There are so many random nuggets of humor interwoven with the drama.  First, there’s the 12-year old son Frank’s (played by Owen Kline) random episodes of acting out; there’s the mini tryst that unfolds when one of Daniels’ students (Ana Paquin) moves in…..oh and then there’s the other son (played by Jesse Eisenberg) who has his own exploits.  But the icing on the cake is William Baldwin who plays a quasi-intellectual hippie tennis instructor who has replaced Daniels as Linney’s new love interest.

At times the movie is almost too painful to watch, as the uncomfortable scenes are numerous.  In the end, Baumbach delivers a great movie by striking the right balance between the pain and comedy that defines the movie.  The acting is also wonderful.  Most notably Daniels, who does an excellent job as the failing father and ex-husband.

Despite being unbearable at times, The Squid and the Whale does not disappoint.

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