With few exceptions, 2005 has lacked exceptional filmmaking. Such "prestige" pictures as Capote and Jarhead have all been slightly unsatisfying, despite their share of technical merits. Most recently, the only film that has been able to satiate my palate is The Squid and the Whale.
Not only is it a resonant portrayal of divorce, but it also proves that a film does not need to be an epic length to be fulfilling. The Squid and the Whale manages to be an emotional and intellectual powerhouse in its brief 81 minutes, and is currently playing at the Landmark Kendall Square Cinema in Cambridge, as well as the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline.
The Squid and the Whale, director Noah Baumbach's autobiographical film, is a nuanced and acute depiction of family turmoil amid divorce, and the effect a couple's separation has on their two sons. Each character is distinctly drawn out by the fantastic cast, which includes Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Jesse Eisenberg and Owen Kline.
It is a bittersweet gem; many moments which are devastating on the surface are pregnant with comedic flair. This underlying, subtle humor is never detrimental to the dramatic effect; it only makes the film a more bitingly sharp and realistic production. In drama there is comedy, and in comedy there is drama.
Although the film takes many risks, the only unconvincing part is when the snobby, intellectual patriarch (a brilliantly selfish Daniels) watches Three's Company. Even though the film directly focuses on the divorce's effect on each family member, it also exposes universal truths in the most ordinary situations with precision, wit and grace.