Part 2: Review of The Squid and the Whale (2005) by Noah Baumbach
A point worth noticing was that the parents’ affairs seemed slightly incestuous in nature. Unsurprisingly, Walt and Bernard were attracted to the same girl, as he was highly influenced by his father but Joan’s boyfriend (Ivin) used to address her son as ‘brother’, as if unceremoniously having disregarded morality. Also, Joan often portrayed her emotions such as hesitation, indecisiveness, and anger onto Walt, as if she were talking to her husband instead of her son. Such behavior left Walt more agitated and frustrated in his relationship with his mother; it became evident in the last scene when he said “mom, you have a way of saying things sometimes in a way I don’t want to hear them”.
The Squid and the Whale (2005) by Noah Baumbach
On further probing onto the theme, a complementary relation style can be seen in the couple; their differences in personality made up for each other’s flaws. Where the husband failed to be sensitive and emotional, the wife acted as an emotional container for the young kids. Where the wife struggled with her career, husband influenced her to be creative. Joan’s practical approach to life helped the family stay rooted to the reality since Bernard kept floating the air of his grandiosity. She gave her children the chance to explore things for themselves and have their own opinion unlike Bernard who is very imposing of his views. While Joan still treats her sons as babies by calling them ‘chicken’ and ‘pickle’, Bernard treats them as a little too mature. Their mixture of over-protection and parental neglect due to preoccupation with their own problems leaves them oblivious to two growing adolescents with their own issues to deal with.
As the plot neared its ending, the story takes a few sharp turns. The evident boundaries between the mother-son and father-son does seemed to blur. Walt realizes of his lost bond with his mother and how he regrets his father not being there in his childhood, just as he is unavailable for his younger brother now. He realizes his self-image as being an emotional and sensitive person as opposed to who he was trying to become with his father. As opposed to his character, Bernard goes to Joan and requests her to re-think the divorce. In his last scene with her, he puts his guard down and expresses his vulnerability, to which Joan starts to cry as if expressing her exhaustion and hopelessness. It’s appreciable that though the picturisation has been done from the point of view of Walt, it never fails to highlight the emotions and sentiments of other characters invariably. With equal focus on all the artists, it is hard to say who had the leading role.
In all, the movie created an impact no less than a mini hydrogen bomb. With its unmistakably inescapable dark humor, it can leave its viewers disturbed, shaken, boggled, dumb-stuck or simply lost in thought. The director, Noah Baumback did a commendable job in giving importance to even the tiny details of the film, including the background props. Example – a picture with a baby gaping in it is shown in the scene, where Frank tries on a condom, clearly holds much deeper meaning than the obvious one. Even the songs being played in the backgrounds fit perfectly into the scene. The line ‘united we stand, divided we fall’ from the song “hey you” was repeated few time in the movie, holds true to the underlying bond in the family.
Lastly but not the least, the title being aptly chosen depicts a multi-layered powerful message. Its meaning can be about two clashing forces, or about an imminent fight, or a war between vulnerability and cynical detachment or the significance that it holds for a little boy who is mortified to see his parents’ dispute or simply the aura of grandiosity attached to squid and the whale diorama in Museum of Natural History.