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The Squid and the Whale (2005)

The Squid and the Whale. Feature film. (2005, 81 mins) IMDB

...An American film that isn't an American film....

T

he Squid and the Whale is not an American movie even though it was written and directed by an American. The principal actors are American. It was filmed in the US and it centres on an American family. Of course it's American, but it isn't. It's the most European American film I've ever watched. It's not a Hollywood film. Not even close. It's therefore an independent film, yes, but most independent American films (see Sundance) want to be Hollywood films. They just don't have the budget to pull it off.

So why is it not an American film? There's a whisper of a narrative with an ending that is abrupt and odd. It doesn't have the feel of a classically structured story. And when it's over, we have more questions than answers. That's neither good or bad. It's just not what we expect when we watch an American, especially a Hollywood movie.

The film is about a novelist, writer, who can't sell his works so he pretends to write and works as a professor. He's pretentious and high-brow. He sees himself as a literary genius and the market ignores them. I guess he's not familiar with Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

He's married with two teenaged boys. It's been a long marriage, but she's been cheating on him. But has he been cheating on her? We're never quite sure, but I say yes.

They separate. She keeps the existing home. He moves into a dump. The two boys go back and forth between the two homes.

Maybe they'll get back together. Maybe they won't. Maybe he'll find a new agent and sell another novel, but maybe not.

Maybe his screwed-up sons will turn out fine or maybe they won't.

There are no answers in this film. Just observations of this family as they live their lives.

The film is interesting as we get to know each of the characters, but once we do, we realize we don't want to spend time with them. Their lives are too pedestrian.

As for the title, perhaps there is a link to some other cultural body besides the museum, but I don't know what it is and therefore I not sure what it means. The one son has nightmares about a museum display where a giant squid wraps its limps around a whale, lunch is served, and therefore. it could simply mean he's terrified because life is tough. Maybe you can tell me.

Posted 2009/02/14 at 19h34ET in Movie Commentary.

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