When it comes to telling contemporary stories of New York life there’s no one better than Brooklynite Noah Baumbach. His debut, Kicking and Screaming is a semi-biographical account of his time at colleague. Despite a sojourn in LA where he notably made Greenberg, the Big Apple has been a vibrant backdrop for films such as Frances Ha, Mistress America, Margot at the Wedding and When We’re Young. He’s the clear frontrunner to take on Woody Allen’s mantle, but his best firm remains his second: The Squid and the Whale.
Bernard Berkman has a problem (Jeff Daniels). The once promising novelist’s success is no longer a match for his ego. His wife Joan (Laura Linney), on the other hand, has just begun publishing her own work to widespread acclaim. When this tension finally drives them to divorce, it’s their two sons who must live with the consequences. Walt (Jesse Eisenberg) worships his father whilst younger brother Frank (Owen Kline) is more of a mummy’s boy.
Partly based on Baumbach’s own experiences growing up with the divorce of his film critic parents, The Squid and the Whale is a perfect mix of comedy and drama. There are great performances from Daniels and Linney, whilst the young actors are both remarkable. The key though, is the script. His writing has never been tighter or more on the money. The Squid and the Whale is an almost perfect piece of film-making. Baumbach will do well to ever top it.
The Squid and the Whale is released on Blu-ray as part of the Criterion Collection by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment on Monday.