207. The Squid and the Whale (US 2005)

Director: Noah Baumbach

Starring: Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Jesse Eisenberg, Owen Klein

Screenplay: Noah Baumbach (see, Captain Mainwarin', bach) [AAN]

Fact: The title refers to an exhibit at the Museum of Natural history in New York

Lie: Jeff Daniels started life as Jeffrey Daniels the body popping dancer from eighties hit makers Shalamar. Jeffrey unexpectedly turned white in 1985 and developed a sort of budgie's mouth and replaced the original Jeff Daniels who'd made a fairly competent start to his career in films such as The Purple Rose of Cairo and Terms of Endearment.

Lie 2: Jeffrey/Jeff promised his new bride 'A Night to Remember' on the first night of their marriage, but had shot his load all over his kecks before his wife Phyllis had taken off her Dunlop Green Flash tennis shoes!

The story of a joint custody disaster following the divorce of two academic New Yorkers.

An outstanding film.

A brilliant script from virtual unknown Baumbach, chronicling the fallout of his his parents' divorce in mid eighties Brooklyn.

Daniels is superb as pompous, bullshitting, academic Bernard Berkman whose early successes as a writer live on only in the minds of himself and his elder son Walt.

Walt idolises Bernard and mimics the speech patterns and the accepted truths and wisdom of his (almost) totally dreadful father.

Bernard's wife Joan (Linney - excellent) writing star is rising and it is her affairs which precipate the beginning of the end of her marriage to Bernard.

A joint custody deal sees seventeen year old Walt and his younger brother Frank moving between the family house (now Linney's) and Bernard's ramshackle facsimile of the family home.

 

The rest of the film deals with the effects of both the marriage break up and the cumulative effects of Bernard and Joan's parenting Young Frank goes 'off the rails' and starts wiping Harry Monk around the school library: Walt pretends that he has written Floyd's 'Hey You'  in order to win a school talent competition. It's difficult to decide which is worse. Probably the Floyd song. Could have been worse, though. Could have been 'Money'. Or 'We Don't Need No Education'. (Or whatever the fucking thing's called.)

"it's wrong to plagiarise The Floyd, Walt."

"Why, Frank?"

"Because they're shit."

Baumbach ensures that the comedy never drowns out the serious points he's trying to make and his intelligent and often playful script is filled with dramatic ironies which are delivered in such an inconsequential and deadpan style by the excellent Daniels that a viewing in a packed cinema is recommended.

Never has the wankiness of the 'chattering classes' (aaarggghhh!!!!) been so brilliantly captured than in the character of Bernard Berkman.

It's a film that Woody Allen could only dream of making.

And it's a much better screenplay than that of Oscar winner 'Crash'.*

 

*Which is unbelievably clever and much better than my (still not 'picked up') Glaze! (The Life and Times of a Comedy Maverick)