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Movie Review: The Squid and the Whale

Alternate Title: Suffer the Little Children

Story: It is 1986 and we find ourselves in Park Slope, Brooklyn watching the throws of what clearly is a separation in progress. The Berkmans are a civilized, intellectual couple who after 17 years of marriage have decided to call it a day. The kids, 16 year old Walt and 12 year old Frank are collateral damage in this break-up. What makes this film so very entertaining is that it manages to show the worst side of each of the Berkmans and allows us to still care for each one of them.

Director and writer Noah Baumbach based this story on his own life (oy). The writing is sharp, often very funny, matter of fact and realistic. The attention to detail in each scene added to the genuine quality of the film.

Some might have problems with the untidy ending but I found it most satisfying. Anyone who had gone through a divorce or is the product of a divorce knows the damage takes time to work out and can't be wrapped up in a 90 minute film.

This is a small film with a big subject. Check it out. By the way, the Squid and the Whale refers to an exhibit at the Museum of Natural History.

Acting: Kudos all around. The always terrific Laura Linney as Joan, the mother, once again, delivers a great performance. Jeff Daniels is spot on wonderful as Bernard, the father. Jesse Eisenberg will have long career ahead of him if this portrayal of 16 year old Walt is an indication of his talent. Owen Kline as 12 year old Frank, comes with a fine pedigree. He is the son of Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates and is the spitting image of his mother. He has the comic timing of his dad and I am sure we will see him again.

Predilection: None. However, I do like films shot in and around NYC.

Critters: A beautiful gray cat with a pretty big part.

Food: Lots of food including Chinese, burgers and cashews.

Blatant Product Placement: The New Yorker

Soundtrack: A fine track.

Opening Titles: Titles are at the end.

Visual Art: The attention to detail in Joan's home and Bernard's home is rich and telling.

Theater Audience: I thought the theater would be empty after the13 inches of rain we had in NYC in the last ten days, but I was wrong.

Sappy Factor: Not a drop of sap to be found.

Squirm Scale: It is always squirmy to see how emotionally cruel people can be to one another.

Drift Factor: No drifting here.

Predictability Level: Was not sure at all what was going to happen.

Tissue Usage: 0

Oscar Worthy: Perhaps.

Nit Picking: There are probably going to be some minor glitches when trying to recreate the year,1986. Some of the subway lines that the kids were taking did not exist 18 years ago. I know, I know, it is very picky, but that is the name of the category.

Big Screen or Rental: Give small films a chance and check out the big screen. For some other Laura Linney gems, try renting: Kinsey, Love Actually, Mystic River, The Mothman Prophecies, The Laramie Project, The House of Mirth, You Can Count on Me, The Truman Show and Primal Fear.

Length: 85 minutes