The Squid and the Whale, a coming-of-age story about a teenager whose writer parents are divorcing, gets my vote for the most over-looked movie of 2005. Before the Oscar nominations were announced I thought that Jeff Daniels’ performance as the self-centered failure-of-a-father-figure was a lock for a Best Actor nod. Daniels is an actor who is so natural a performer that I think we often forget how good he is. I’d lump him in the same category with another Jeff—Jeff Bridges—who is also often overlooked.
The film is a semi-autobiographical story by former New Yorker writer Noah Baumbach and avoids the pitfalls that so many family dramas that deal with divorce fall into. It’s poignant, funny and in a movie filled with great performances and scenes one sequence stands out as one of the best not only from the movie, but one of the best of the year. There is a scene in a doorway between Daniels and his ex-wife, played by Laura Linney, where in just a couple of minutes we learn all we need to know about their relationship—the tenderness that once existed and the bitterness that now touches every moment of their lives.
The Squid and the Whale is one of the best movies of last year, and if you missed it at the theatre check it out on DVD.