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The Squid and the Whale: Special Edition

Review Written by: Estefan Ellison
Film: B+
Video/Audio/Extras: B/B+/B+

Directed by: Noah Baumbach
Written by: Noah Baumbach
Produced by: Wes Anderson, Charlie Corwin, Clara Markowicz and Peter Newman
Starring: Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Jesse Eisenberg, Owen Kline, William Baldwin
Buy it!, Buy it, rent it or skip it: Rent it

It's moments like these when I think to myself, "What the @#$% is wrong with the Golden Globes?" Four out of the five nominees for Best Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical wasn't either genre. Walk the Line had Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon singing in the film, but they didn't break out into song in the unexpected places. Pride & Prejudice and Mrs Henderson Presents had a couple of witty moments, but what more could you expect from Jane Austen and Judi Dench. The biggest insault, however, was nominated a full-out drama called The Squid and the Whale. It's a fine film indeed, but it was a drama from beginning to end. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association probably has a really warped sense of humour.

Bernard Berkman (Jeff Daniels) was once a popular author and now he isn't raking in the cash anymore. His wife Joan (Laura Linney) has now become a very successful writer much like her husband in his early years. Unfortunately, the two have been starting arguments mainly due to both that and Joan's constant cheating. They divorce, which soon divides their two sons. The older brother Walt (Jesse Eisenberg) sides with his father and starts having a relationship with a fellow Fitzgerald fan. His younger brother Frank (Owen Kline) stands by his mother and starts to masterbate in public places. The eighty minute length looks at the relationships between these four characters.

Noah Baumbach, the director/writer of The Squid and the Whale based a lot of this film on his own parent's divorce and it sure was gutsy to do that, because they're potrayed in a very positive light. However, the performances ad the screenplay don't make us hate the characters and we just seem them as people with flaws and that is the realism of the picture. Nobody gets back together or think about getting back together or apologise for anything like any Hollywood film. That is what makes this film great and due to the short length, we never tire of them. Laura Linney is the standout of the parents, while Jesse Eisenberg's performance will remind many of Timothy Hutton's Oscar-winning work in Ordinary People. Jeff Daniels received a ton of acclaim for playing Bernard, but I didn't think he was that special and all the plaudits were probably given because it was a step from his usual Disney-type work. Now, I have nothing against Owen Kline's performance but the character did things that a person at that age would not be doing and that is one of the film's major flaws. Nobody at that age masterbates or does any of the crude things that he is seen doing. The rest of the film contains its realism but that doesn't excuse the sickness of Kline's scenes.

The cover claims that this DVD edition of The Squid and the Whale is a special edition and that mainly has to do more with quality rather than quantity, because we don't get much here. Noah Baumbach's audio commentary takes an unusual turn and doesn't have him watching the film but rather talking over still images. It still works extremely well, though. Noah Baumbach speaks again at a conversation where he talks about the impact of the film, followed by an on-set featurette on the making of the film. All provide a multitude of information. A large set of previews for other Sony DVDs round off the disc and for some odd reason, they have forgotten to provide a trailer to the actual film on the disc you have just rented or bought. Is a two-minute trailer too much to ask? I don't forgive Sony for not putting it on there, but the other extras are so terrific, I will still give the special features a high score. Overall, it's both a great film and a great DVD, but I doubt you will be watching it a lot so I recommend just a rental.

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