I finally got round to seeing The Squid and the Whale, Noah Baumbach‘s latest. I spent a lot of the film thinking, hey, this has a pretty strong Wes Anderson vibe about it – but then again, the two have a lot in common, both in their characters and in their wry self-consciousness. But silly me, I didn’t realise until the closing credits (were there opening credits? I don’t think there were) that Anderson produced this film, and I didn’t realise until today that Baumbach wrote The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Ahaaaaa, it all becomes clear.
Anyway, the film was great. I’m not sure whether my friend who went with me enjoyed it as much as I did, though I know he liked it – I think there’s a bit of a cultural disconnect for anyone who didn’t grow up in the 80s in the States. There’s a particular brand of dysfunction that we experienced, it seems – if not in our own families then in those of our friends or classmates – that didn’t exist anywhere else. And Baumbach captures it beautifully. I hate using words like “poignant” to describe films, so I won’t. I’ll call it evocative (hang on a minute, that’s even more pretentious, isn’t it? Damn). I didn’t live with these characters (at least not directly), I didn’t grow up in this neighborhood; but they took me to the moments of my teenage years just the same – that sense of weirdness and general discomfort – the itch that you can’t pinpoint closely enough to scratch. And it took me there in a wrapper that was close enough to my own experience – the school-appointed counsellor, the museum afternoons, the intellectual snobbery – that I found myself responding in completely unconscious ways. Which is not an easy thing to convey. Which is of course what really good movies are supposed to do.
Baumbach’s come a long way since Kicking and Screaming, but there’s clearly a lot of autobiographical crossover: one of the themes in TS&TW is Walt struggling with the disparity between how he imagines himself to be (largely based on potential that he seems to have no intention of fulfilling) and the reality of life. Pretty much all the characters in K&S are stuck in that same place. It’s nice to see Walt’s story moving on. And Baumbach’s too.
I bought a house. Well, subject to contract but still. Good god, what am I thinking?
I’ll tell you what I’m thinking: it’s beautiful, and it’s going to cost me the same every month (ok, every month for 25 years but still), and I love it. That’s what I’m thinking. I’m also of course thinking oh sweet jesus, what have I done??, but that’s OK, right?
Damn. I’m still stuck on 2. Never mind. Let’s just leave it there.