Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Literary gold

Noah Baumbach's "The Squid & The Whale" is a major masterpiece. I use the word "major" with a two-fold purpose. One, to contrast his earlier "minor" masterpiece "Kicking & Screaming." Second, as a reference to one of his best lines in "The Squid" when Bernard characterizes "A Tale of Two Cities" as "minor" Dickens.

I recall one critic commenting "The Squid" is the best American movie about divorce. He's probably right. And another critic comments that Jeff Daniels has created his own masterpiece. I agree with that too. This is Mr. Daniels' best performance since "The Purple Rose of Cairo."

A memorable scene in the movie involves Walt describing "Metamorphosis" as Kafkaesque. His girlfriend then comments, "Well, it was written by Franz Kafka. Of course it has to be." That reminds me of a reader e-mailing me calling one of my Syracuse Daily Orange column "opinionated." I wrote her back and said, "Of course it has to be, it's under the "opinions" section." That was ingenious!

That also comes to another point: I never missed a talent. When I saw "Kicking & Screaming" in 1995, I said to myself (and even recommended the film to many, many people), "Noah Baumbach is going to be huge." No one believed me then. That movie didn't do so well, and neither did his subsequent films. Finally, he has created a masterpiece. And I have redeemed myself.

To give Noah his deserved credit, I must end this review and say "The Squid & The Whale" is clearly Baumbach-esque, because it has to be.

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