Noah's New One

Noah Baumbach’s family-divorce movie “The Squid and the Whale” finally arrived in Madison, and I was able to catch it this afternoon. While “Kicking and Screaming” (his debut and a favorite of mine) and “Mr. Jealousy” (much improved, in my mind, by a second viewing last week) were primarily comedies with some smart strains of sadness playing here and there, “Squid” is tougher going all the way around. Much of it’s uncomfortable viewing, and only part of this has to do with how unpleasant Jeff Daniel’s writer-patriarch ‘Bernard’ is. He’s petty, groundlessly snobbish, unbelievably insensitive, and an awful parent, and I partly wish writer / director Baumbach would’ve given him just a few redeeming moments. Learned SOB that he is, though, Bernard does have some of the best lines (he calls Kafka his “predecessor,” for one). The actors are genuine and impressive, the script both raw and focused, and the soundtrack terrific and surprising. There are laughs in this movie, but it is, without question, a work about pain. Baumbach’s first two movies were about, in part, small pangs of pain. “Squid” is about wallops of pain that knock you on your ass.