Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Noah Baumbach's The Squid and the Whale

I saw Baumbach's Mr. Jealousy when it came out in, I think, 1998. I thought it was a not altogether successful Woody Allen pastiche, but was interested enough to have a look at Kicking and Screaming, which I thought was a pleasant but not altogether successful Whit Stillman pastiche. I liked the movies with some reservations. So I was excited when I saw that he'd teamed up with Wes Anderson (whose Rushmore I loved, but whose Royal Tenenbaums I found disappointing) on The Life Aquatic with Steven Zissou. Sorry to say, I thought that one was just a disaster with a good soundtrack.

That's where I stood with Noah Baumbach until this weekend, when I finally saw last year's The Squid and the Whale, which he wrote and directed. It's about a Brooklyn family, Mom, Dad, and two boys, and what happens to them all when the parents divorce. Sounds like a weak premise, but wow was this good. Complex characters, both loathsome and sympathetic. It was funny enough to make me laugh out loud, which I generally only do at my own jokes, and sad enough to make the Missus cry, which she generally doesn't do ever.

Was it perfect? I bet you think I'm going to say yes, but I'm not. It's a little too composed in places, especially at the end. (Why does he go to that museum? Just dropping by? A little convenient . . .) And in other places it's maybe a little messier than I'd like (some loose ends), though I didn't care about this so much. But these are nits. Best newish movie I've seen a long while. If you're into movies in which things don't blow up, you might want to take this one for a spin.

Now I'm tempted to take a peek at Highball, though it's generally a bad sign when a director takes his name off a picture.

No comments:

Post a Comment