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Sony Pictures The Squid And The Whale (Widescreen, Special Edition)
Based on the true childhood experiences of director Noah Baumbach, \"The Squid And The Whale\" tells the story of a patriarch (Jeff Daniels, \"Dumb & Dumber,\" \"Speed\") of an eccentric Brooklyn family who once had been a great novelist, but has settled into a teaching job. When his wife (Laura Linney, \"Exorcism Of Emily Rose,\" \"Kinsey\") discovers a writing talent of her own, jealousy divides the family, leaving two teenage sons to forge new relationships with their parents. Linney's characterbegins dating her younger son's tennis coach (William Baldwin, \"Backdraft,\" \"Flatliners\"). Meanwhile, Daniels' character has an affair with the student (Anna Paquin, \"X-Men,\" \"Almost Famous\") his older son is pursuing.
The Squid and the Whale follows the divorce of Joan (Laura Linney, You Can Count on Me) and Bernard Berkman (Jeff Daniels, The Purple Rose of Cairo) as it wreaks havoc on the emotional lives of their two sons, Walt (Jesse Eisenberg, Roger Dodger) and Frank (Owen Kline, The Anniversary Party). Though there's no plot in the usual sense, the movie progresses with growing emotional force from the separation into the bitter fighting between Joan and Bernard and the hapless, floundering behavior of Walt and Frank, who act out through plagiarism, sexual acts, and drinking. Some viewers may find the ending too diffuse; others will appreciate that writer/director Noah Baumbach (Mr. Jealousy) doesn't wrap up the messiness of life in a false cinematic package. Either way, viewers will appreciate how the specificity of the personalities makes The Squid and the Whale so compelling, as Baumbach has drawn the characters with such detail, both engaging and off-putting, that they leap off the screen. Naturally, he's greatly helped by the cast: Linney, Eisenberg, Kline, and especially Daniels bite into these often unsympathetic portraits and give fearlessly honest performances, interlocked in both painful and funny ways--rarely have family dynamics been captured so vividly. If there was an ensemble Oscar, this cast would deserve it. --Bret Fetzer