Posted 27 January 2010 - 04:19 AM
Writer/director Noah Baumbach has shown much focus on the character study drama. Lives are explored at the apex of stagnation, with plenty of little comedic truths thrown in the mix, and while things don't seem resolved at the end we can at least see our characters learned something about themselves. A frequent collaborator with Wes Anderson, Baumbach has seen much success with his talents.
(1) The Squid and the Whale (writer/director)
(1) Kicking and Screaming (writer/director)
(1) The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (writer)
Posted 27 January 2010 - 04:56 AM
Having been awakened so to speak, I almost feel more enlightened to the strengths of Anderson's films. I have to be honest and say I do rather prefer the more restrained style of Baumbach, at least after the one film I've seen. I find Baumbach features everything I love about Anderson, but with none of those Anderson elements I'm indifferent to, and that he makes the character study side of things feel much more real to me.
The Squid and the Whale is easy to identify with for anyone like me that has experienced divorce. I never had to deal with my brother siding with the opposite parent. I had a different variation of that with my first step-father, who would basically try to make me and my other siblings dislike my brother, who he also happened to be bullying. I did experience that mom/dad competition though. This sort of cheap trick ranged from badmouthing the other to guilt-trips about love, and it worked rather well. I even had my grandmother providing my mother with support, badmouthing my father with secrets of the past, and naturally that led to his retort. After the dust settled the adults all looked exceedingly dirty, and that aspect of how things really work was totally nailed in the film.
I like to think that any parent has perfect 20/20 hindsight about how wrong this is, and hopefully I can avoid such things should I ever find myself in a broken home. These characters cannot help but tell their children the same lies they tell themselves, and I think in the end their love for their children turns those lies into guilt, and then into enlightenment. I feel the most shaky about Frank, but then I would also like to see some studies on who is usually the most damaged in such a situation. My brother was clearly the one in our case, and like Frank he too was the youngest. He too turned to alcohol, and developed a bit of a bitterness against my father, as well as a general chip on his shoulder to prove himself to everyone. He is much more mechanically inclined than I am just like my father is with cars and such, while I am a bit more sensitive and interested in the arts like my mother.
I throw this film in with the likes of Radio Flyer, in that it is one of those films my brother and I can look at each other and understand that it strikes a chord in both of us, no discussion necessary. I cannot wait to see more of his films, and I’m hoping the rest are this good.
Posted 11 August 2010 - 10:54 PM
As for Greenberg specifically, it's ruined by Ben Stiller. It's not that his acting is bad so much as he doesn't seem to understand, like Kidman did, how to develop such a divisive figure beyond the broadest possible strokes. Greta Gerwig is natural and enchanting, though, and I thought she almost saved the film. Her vulnerability outpaces Stiller's and highlights the uneasy position of the film as on the cusp of being a studio project but with the intention of a more independent ideal. If I ever see the movie again it'll be because of Gerwig and not Stiller. He tries far too hard.
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