The Squid and the Whale

[Screenshot]This one reminds me somewhat of cinéma vérité. Which is OK, but as I established when watching Béla Tarr’s films, the naturalistic style doesn’t do too much for me, nor does the plot and framing. It’s all a bit too realistically grounded. I can see families self-destruct without looking too hard: I kind of need a hook to draw me into their fictional depiction, and I’m not really given much of one here. The acting is excellent, and some of the scenarios depicted are peculiar enough to give me pause (most notably, the idea that a whole room full of people, several of them teens, could fail to recognize a well-known Pink Floyd song), but ultimately, the plot left me kind of cold and could’ve been replaced with a PSA against joint custody. On the point of characterization, I was struck by the narrative arc of Bernard and Walt, both of whom start off the story fairly sympathetic and are, by the end of the story, intolerably loathsome. The attraction between Sophie and Walt I don’t get: his very first snippet of conversation with her is already ridiculously condescending (“oh, that’s lesser Fitzgerald”); why the fuck does she continue to have a conversation with him?

I watched this mostly on the recommendation of a friend, who said it was worth seeing for the dynamic of interplay between an academic and the nonacademic world. But as far as I can tell, the only take-home message about academics here is that academics are smug assholes who have no compunctions about screwing their students. I’m kind of hoping that message is only supposed to be about literature professors, not us humble and non-judgmental math types.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.


About Jake
I'm a mathematics professor at the University of Louisville, and a geek.

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