The Squid and the Whale Special Edition—Sony Pictures
A friend’s mom had told him to see writer-director Noah Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale, which is about a family splitting apart with two boys that are years apart. I thought her recommendation very odd since this situation mirrored my friend’s family in high school. But now it makes perfect sense, as no other film encapsulates as well the black comedy that is divorce.
As the dad of the crumbling Berkman family, Bernard (Jeff Daniels) is a snobby, cheapskate liar whose literary successes are in the distant past. Meanwhile, his wife Joan (Laura Linney) is getting her first novel published. Linney delivers yet another standout performance, while Daniels lands one of the best dramatic roles of his career and nails it.
But it’s the kids that really shine. Walt (Jesse Eisenberg) is the 16-year-old who adores his father to the point of mimicry, and Frank (Owen Kline) is the increasingly inappropriate 12-year-old. The viewer shares their discomfort toward their parents and bodies, bringing back the horrors of puberty in ways that make the humor rich and painful.
The movie features a lovely score, particularly the introductory piece, which perfectly complements the tension. The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix lets the subwoofer chime in when Pink Floyd’s “Hey You” comes on, but there’s little in the way of a surround sound design. The 1.85:1 anamorphic video does the trick with the film’s claustrophobically hand-held camera and straightforward shooting technique.
Special features include an insightful director’s audio commentary, a rambling interview with Baumbach, and a well-done behind-the-scenes piece.