We watched the movie The Squid and the Whale the other night – a low-key but vicious little tale, set in 1980s Brooklyn, about the effects on two teenage boys of the divorce of their literary parents.
Jeff Daniels is the world’s worst dad, a great big pretentious, self-obsessed jerk who has forged a reputation as an intellectual heavyweight. Disastrously, his eldest son Walt hero-worships him, and instead of ‘wasting his time’ reading English texts, he merely recites the opinions fed to him by his father.
The comedy is based on the excruciating embarrassment of adolescence. In one scene, Walt tries to impress a girl by telling her that the end of The Metamorphosis is "very Kafka-esque”. “Well it was written by Kafka”, she replies, non-plussed.
Walt wins the school talent show by passing off Pink Floyd’s ‘Hey You’ as his own composition. When rumbled, he is forced to see the school shrink. His explanation for the crime is magisterial:
“I felt I could have written the song. So the fact that it had already been written didn’t seem important somehow.”
Highly recommended, if you can bear 80 minutes of squirming.