By Ed Koch
The Squid and the Whale (+)
This film about the Berkman family takes place in 1968 in Park Slope, Brooklyn. The father, Bernard (Jeff Daniels), is self-important and insensitive in his relationships with his wife, Joan (Laura Linney), and their two sons: 16-year old Walt (Jesse Eisenberg) and 10-year-old Frank (Owen Klein). The parents marriage is on the rocks, and the family is about to separate into two households with father and mother maintaining joint custody and the boys splitting part of their week at each parents home. To the consternation of their sons, Bernard and Joan both take lovers which results in unusual behavior on the part of the boys. Walt engages in plagiarism and falsely claims to have written a song, while Frank defaces library books with body fluids.
Although this film has an interesting, provocative plot and excellent acting, I am squeamish about recommending it, because it lacks anything by way of happiness or, perhaps more significant, meaning to our lives, at least to mine. Nevertheless, it has been nominated for an Academy Award, and it would be unfair for me to give it a minus rating simply because it was painful to watch. (Ive already made one mistake this year by giving an unfavorable rating to Walk the Line, nominated for five Academy Awards. I cant find anyone who agrees with my review of it in which I said, It is a bomb and a waste of your time. In retrospect, I admit that I was wrong in that review although I still maintain that I sing better in the shower than Joaquin Phoenix, although he undoubtedly looks better.)
You will have to decide for yourself whether or not The Squid and the Whale is a film that you would like to see. Remember, while there isnt much out there to choose from and what you see in this movie may be painful, particularly if you were unlucky and grew up in a family where combat was the order of every day, it may strike a responsive chord in you.