The Great Wall
Unlike any American blockbuster you've seen, a conservative movie with action set pieces that are actually inventive and thrilling enough to be worthwhile.
I don't know what I'm supposed to feel during "The Squid and the Whale." Sympathy, I suppose, for two bright boys whose parents are getting a messy divorce. Both parents are writers and use words as weapons; the boys choose sides and join the war. In theory I observe their errors and sadness and think, there but for the grace of God go I. In practice, I feel envy.
I would have loved to have two writers as parents, and grow up in a bohemian family in Brooklyn, and hear dinner-table conversation about Dickens. These kids have it great. Their traumas will inspire them someday. Hell, the movie was written and directed by Noah Baumbach, whose parents were writers (the novelist Jonathan Baumbach, the film critic Georgia Brown), and look how he turned out. By the time he was 26 he had already directed "Kicking and Screaming" (1995), about sardonic and literate college graduates whose only ambition was to remain on campus. I felt the same way. Left to my own devices, I would still be a student of English literature, entering my 44th year as an undergraduate.
In the movie the parents, Bernard and Joan Berkman, are played by Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney, and if that's who it takes to play your parents, what are you complaining about? The movie centers on their troubled sons. Joan has been having an affair for four years, their father is moving out, and in theory their divorcing parents will share custody (there is even a plan for time shares of the cat). In practice, Walt (Jesse Eisenberg), who is 16, moves in with his father, and Frank (Owen Kline), who is about 10, stays in the family home with his mother.
Both kids have issues with their parents' sexuality. Walt thinks his mother is a "whore" for bringing one of her lovers into their home, but then his father begins an affair with one of his students, and what does that make him? Walt falls into true adolescent love, but is compelled to deny it to himself, because his father urges him to play the field, and he values his father's opinions more than is wise. "You have too many freckles," he tells Sophie (Halley Feiffer), the girl he likes. I guess he thinks that shows he has high standards. He's so dumb he doesn't know how wonderful too many freckles are.