Don’t let the title "The Squid and the Whale" ( search) make you squirm. The poignant comedy has little to do with calamari and lots to do with a middle-class family slithering through the difficulties of divorce.
But why talk divorce when writer/director Noah Baumbach ( search) just married actress Jennifer Jason Leigh ( search)? They’ve been dating for four years, married for four weeks. At the “Squid” premiere in New York, Jennifer told me the wedding “was very private, very small, very low-key.”
And the relationship looks to be very solid. “I rely on her,” Noah said. “She’s the first person I show any script to.”
Those scripts include “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,” which he co-wrote with Wes Anderson, and the upcoming “The Fantastic Mr. Fox,” directed by Anderson and adapted from a Roald Dahl novel.
“Squid” is based on Baumbach’s boyhood in Brooklyn, N.Y., the son of a divorced novelist dad and film critic mom.
But again … why speak of divorce? Actor Billy Baldwin (search) isn’t. He just returned from Costa Rica, where he and wife Chynna Phillips celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary.
Billy has a supporting role in “Squid” as tennis instructor -- and the irony is he threw his back out two weeks before filming.
“I’m not a bad tennis player,” he said, “but I shot my scenes on, like, five Vicodin and with a back brace. I can barely hit the ball.”
Hey, at least this guy comes clean about his performance-enhancing drugs.
Laura Linney ( search) and Jeff Daniels ( search) play the parents in “Squid.” Linney’s role is much different from her last outing in “The Exorcism of Emily Rose.”
I asked her about a recent New York Times article suggesting that Hollywood films are taking a conservative bent post-“Passion of the Christ,” citing the religiously themed “Emily Rose” as an example.
“I think the article is pushing it a little far,” she said. “I think you can use any horror film and apply that argument. But I need to formulate my thoughts a little further.”
OK, we’ll get back to her at the next premiere….
Daniels’ academic dad reminded me of his early role as Debra Winger’s deadbeat hubby, Flap Horton, in “Terms of Endearment.”
“I can see in some ways how this can be Flap Horton, who is grown up as only Flap could,” he said. “But the script is unique to Noah and what he went through. I didn’t have a clue how I was gonna pull this off, so there is this tremendous risk for failure.”
What?! The man’s made, like, 40 films, and he still thinks he's gonna screw things up royally? I wondered if he kept his old movies around the house for the occasional critique.
“We have DVDs of pretty much everything I have done,” he said, “but they’re basically for when I am dead so the kids can watch them and see dad. They’ll be playing at my wake.”
Daniels was quite funny and sweet - I’m crowning him favorite actor of the week. God, I’m easy.
One more tidbit: When you see the film -- and you should when it opens next week -- you’ll wonder who gives the breakout performance as the family’s younger brother. It’s 14-year-old Owen Kline ( search), son of Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates.
Owen was there with his proud folks. Come to think of it, this film about divorce was packed with (relatively) long-lasting Hollywood couples. Hope I didn’t just jinx them.
You may have heard buzz about a documentary called "Inside the Bubble," ( search) which, according to the film’s press release, reveals the “Democrats' worst fears about the Kerry Campaign -- a disorganized, contensious [sic], self-aborbed [sic] team that thought that they could win by ‘not making mistakes’ and keeping their candidate in the public eye without every clarifiying [sic] a position on anything.”
Other than needing a better spell-check device, the writer of this release needs a serious clue. I’ve seen the film, which is yet to find a distributor, and it’s hardly what the release purports it to be.
It mainly features the press wranglers and personal aides who traveled with Kerry during the last leg of the campaign -- some of them cursing at a bad photo op or moaning about lack of sleep.
Halfway through, it plays like a home movie (calls home to the kids, celebrating colleagues’ birthdays), and by the end it’s like watching paint dry. How exciting is it to see someone check his Blackberry?
I’ve met producer Doug Davis, who’s a very nice guy. He was behind the camera, in the trenches with these folks for months; Steve Rosenbaum is the film’s director. The project grew out of a TV series the two did called “Staffers,” which aired on the Discovery Times channel.
"Staffers" followed the campaigns of all Democratic hopefuls during the primary. I didn’t see “Staffers,” and had trouble finding reviews. The one I did find, in the Los Angeles Times, said “viewers never quite learn why these people are willing to abuse themselves in the name of the electorate.”
The same can be said for “Bubble” -- but there’s a deeper problem. There are too few moments with the campaign’s heavier hitters, such as Mike McCurry and Joe Lockhart (in fact, Lockhart’s mug barely appears). Where’s the real strategizing? Or the campaign’s “self-absorbed,” “contentious” team?”
Still, the press release presses on: “… the rare moments of authentic engagement, the Candidate's struggle to connect, and the Democrats' desperate wish to imbue John Kerry with a complex muddle of political perspectives… creates a campaign that struggles to say anything that reaches the other side.”
That may have been true of the campaign, but all I saw on screen is a movie that struggles to say anything.