February 14, 2006
President's Day 2006
Their kids, teenage Walt (Jesse Eisenberg, age 21, brother of Hallie) and barely-pubescent Frank (Owen Kline, age 13, son of Kevin and Phoebe Cates) are totally messed up. Bernard is only interested in his own intellectual universe, filling Walt's head with capsule judgements to the point where Walt is incapable of speaking out against his father or even forming a creative idea of his own. Frank, meanwhile, is in the middle of an early-pubescent muddle which is embarassingly familiar and intimate to watch. The 1986 solution to a divorce is a daily joint-custody swap: Dad gets the kids at his new house on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays, and Joan gets them Sundays, Tuesdays, and Fridays. They alternate Thursdays. Do you think this helps or hurts matters?
The script contains that same dry humor and unflinching observation of bad parenting which was played for comic effect in The Royal Tenenbaums. I keep bringing up Tenenbaums as a reference, because the retro-1986 vibe and the Wes Anderson-esque soundtrack reminded us so much of that movie- if you added Alec Baldwin's narration, Wes Anderson's trademark captions, and Mark Mothersbaugh's baroque harpsichord, it'd be the same movie. We all agreed on this point before I did the research and discovered that writer-director Noah Baumbach wrote Wes Anderson's other family epic, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. As much as I like movies which don't go on too long with nothing to say, this movie had no third act, and, at 81 minutes, felt a little under-developed.
THEATER NOTE: For some reason, the theater smelled like fish. Jed thought it smelled like "cod or haddock", I thought it smelled like tunafish juice, but the whole audience smelled it. I couldn't bring myself to tell the manager "the theater showing 'The Squid & The Whale' smells like seafood"!