Coming of Age Neurotically

OnDVD: The Squid and the Whale

Noah Baumbach has been threatening to make a great film for a long time. Post-college angst flick Kicking and Screaming was hilarious in fits and starts, but uneven; the underrated Mr. Jealousy, a dry-witted romantic comedy, came closer but still wasn't quite a masterpiece. His collaboration with Wes Anderson on the script for The Life Aquatic is perhaps too crammed full of wonderful ideas; they never quite gel into a cohesive whole.  It was only a matter of time, however; back on his own and delving into very personal territory, Baumbach really knocked one out of the park with last year's The Squid and the Whale.

It's 1986, and the Berkmans of Brooklyn are about to implode. Victims of career egotism, parents Bernard (Jeff Daniels), a sardonic and hypercritical writer-turned-professor, and aspiring novelist Joan (Laura Linney) have announced they're splitting up, and teenage Walt (Jesse Eisenberg) and adolescent Frank (Owen Kline) haven't quite figured out how to react. What follows is an unflinching, awkward, funny and occasionally painful examination of the fallout of divorce. First, material belongings are bickered over, then indiscretions are revealed. Rebellion rears its ugly head, and kids choose sides, often for reasons they don't quite understand.

Drawing from his own experiences as a child of divorce, Baumbach's Oscar-nominated script weaves a gentle yet potent yarn that resonates deeply even if your parents weren't exactly East Coast intellectuals; the awkward absurdities of deciding how to split time between Mom and Dad, or trying to wrap your head around their new relationships, is universal. With a near-flawless cast—Linney's always a marvel, Daniels has never been better, and the extraordinary performances from young Eisenberg and Kline lift the proceedings to a whole other level—it's a top-notch slice of life that begs to be savored on DVD. This week's release includes a director commentary, an interview and a behind-the-scenes featurette.


Also released this week: Batman Beyond: Season 1; Capote; Everything Is Illuminated; Gidget: The Complete Series; Huff: Season 1; Justice League: Season 1; Paul Mooney's Analyzing White America; Roseanne: Season 3.

 
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