The Squid and the Whale ★★★★★

My parents aren’t even divorced, nor do I have a close enough relationship with either of them for me to consider that I’m the byproduct of any problematic behavior on their part, so I don’t know why this is such a personal movie to me. Maybe it’s because of how pompous Bernard is and I’m afraid of becoming that, or maybe it’s just because of how delicate but disastrous the parental impact is on Frank and Walt, reminding me of one of the many reasons becoming a parent isn’t on my bucket list. You dislike all the characters and their behavior, but you know it’s because of the trauma they’ve been through and you want them to get better (the only potentially irredeemable character is Bernard, and even he has his moments). 

But outside of being intimate and sensitive and painful, it’s also so much fun. Just as you hate Walt’s programmed opinions of things he hasn’t read and his plagiarism, “I thought I could’ve written it, so the fact that it was already written is more of a technicality” is such a funny concept. Just as you hate Bernard’s constant literary references, you love his final line to Joan, a failed Breathless reference. And the visual style often matches this referenced film, jump cuts and all. Imagine thinking that the gorgeous, “flat” warmth is anything but perfectly suited for this story, which is pretty much just Baumbach reaching into his own complicated memories, blending nostalgia and pain seemingly effortlessly.

The worst I can say about this movie is that it’s hard to believe so many literary scholars wouldn’t recognize a song as popular as “Hey You,” but aside from that, this second watch has only confirmed that my initial 5-star rating was more than warranted.

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