Today is

   "A word to the wise ain't necessary --  
          it's the stupid ones that need the advice."
					-Bill Cosby

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Divorce, American Style

Recently my husband and I watched The Squid and the Whale, a tale of the disintegration of an upper-middle-class Brooklyn family with literary and bobo pretensions. Jeff Daniels plays the father, a pompous gasbag of a writing instructor and has-been novelist who feels threatened by his wife's recent literary success. Laura Linney is the wife, the slightly neurotic and casually self-absorbed writer who coldly discusses her adulterous affairs -- once the cat is out of the bag, thanks to Daniels -- with her teenage son. Their two sons, one in high school and the other about ten or eleven, are traumatized by the break-up, and they end up "taking sides" in a conflict in which they themselves are the primary victims.

The film's biggest problem is that Daniels and Linney's behavior toward their children is so heinous as to seem more like abuse and neglect than the inevitable and tragic result of divorce and its emotional upheavals. They are so utterly unlikable and unsympathetic as to infect our response to the children, as well. I kept thinking, "I know children can't choose their parents, and, heck, these kids are going through a rough time, but any kid who would want to curry favor with either of these pathetic monsters is beyond the pale of my sympathy."

Apparently the film is a largely autobiographical account of the filmmaker's experiences with his parents' divorce. What the movie needs, though, is less autobiography and more art. There were very few scenes in the movie which suggested a relationship, a history, between Daniels and Linney or provided a glimpse of an actual family that has been destroyed by the divorce.

The movie got me thinking, though. Are there any great movies about divorce? Kramer vs. Kramer? Bleccch. An Unmarried Woman? Yuck. Shoot the Moon comes closest to greatness. But why can I recall so few? Here's one that's amusing, if not much else. And here's one I'll watch one of these days when hell freezes over. What am I leaving out?

The Awful Truth isn't really about divorce, but watch it anyway. Thank me later.


Blogger Conservative in Virginia said...

There are upper-middle-class families in Brooklyn? I thought they all live on the Upper West Side.

November 21, 2006 1:05 PM  
Blogger Kate Marie said...

I *think* there are, but I don't actually know.

The movie is set in the Eighties, but I don't know that that makes a difference.

Isn't Brooklyn Heights a pretty upscale community?

November 21, 2006 1:21 PM  
Blogger Conservative in Virginia said...

Well, it seems so. I never heard of it.

November 21, 2006 4:39 PM  
Blogger stewdog said...

I would vote for the Parent Trap. . either version.

November 25, 2006 3:58 PM  

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