Thursday, January 30, 2020

THE SQUID AND THE WHALE (2005), MARRIAGE STORY (2019)

 Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney at counseling
in The Squid and the Whale

Noah Bambauch's The Squid and the Whale tells the story of Bernard Berkman (Jeff Daniels) and his wife Joan (Laura Linney), a couple going through a divorce in 1986 Brooklyn. The Berkman's are an academically minded couple, with Bernard being a writer and professor and Joan being an aspiring novelist. They both love their kids, Walt and Frank, but express this love in odd ways at times exacerbated by the fact that they are now living in different houses. 

This is an interesting character study of all four of the main leads. Bernard is a bit of a stuffy academic, who looks down on people like Ivan (William Baldwin), the local tennis pro, who he refers to as a philistine. Joan's disconnect with Bernard led to her having affairs (including Ivan) which is explored here also. Walt Berkman (Jesse Eisenberg) admires his dad-He has a poster of one of his dad's favorite films, The Mother and the Whore on his wall for Heaven's sake! Walt seems to blame his mom for their troubles more than dad. He has trouble finding a girl that he considers good enough and openly plagiarizes Pink Floyd at the school talent show. The younger brother Frank (Owen Kline) is starting to have troubles of his own involving his own relationships and experimentation with drinking and masturbation...the latter of which wouldn't be a problem if he wasn't doing it in the library!

This is an intellectual and fascinating story of the dissolution of a marriage and family. 

Jesse Eisenberg and Owen Kline in
The Squid and The Whale

Didn't every 80's kid have a poster of  Jean Eustache's
The Mother and the Whore on their wall?

Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver
in Marriage Story

Noah Baumbach goes to the broken family well again in 2019's much praised Marriage Story. I was at first a little taken aback by the fact that the couple are both in show business, but this is later an important plot point in that Charlie directs plays in New York and Nicole has moved to Los Angles to further her professional career in television. Their son Henry (Azhy Robertson) is caught in the middle. One of the most interesting aspects of the film is legally. Divorce isn't cheap, financially or emotionally. Nicole finds a lawyer (Laura Dern) that takes no prisoners. Charlie finds a older but caring lawyer (Alan Alda) at first, but then realizes he's got to get his own "asshole" lawyer (Ray Liotta).

The film is very well acted and is a strong emotional piece. Adam Driver is especially solid and his performance of the song Being Alive at the end of the film is a fitting catharsis to the film.

Noah Baumbach and his wife Greta Gerwig (Little Women) both have films nominated for Best Picture this year...I hope that doesn't cause them any problems at home...

Marriage Story has been nominated for six Oscars, including: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Original Screenplay.


Lawyering up...Alan Alda assists Adam Driver
in Marriage Story

Lawyering up...Laura Dern advocates for
Scarlett Johannson in Marriage Story

4 comments:

  1. I have not seen either film yet but I imagine an interesting double feature, or a triple feature with Kramer Vs Kramer added.

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