With Apologies to Pope
I'm breaking Alexander Pope's rule on criticism by not experiencing an entire work before I opine.
Though I take solace in the fact that my buddy who thinks I'm silly to watch something I don't enjoy would be proud of me.
I took in the first 20 minutes of The Squid and the Whale. The only pleasant thing about it for me was that Jeff Daniels played the logical extension of his character "Flap" from Terms of Endearment, where this character sorta gets the life that the "Flap" character deserves from abandoning his wife and children to boff undergrads.
Other than that, it was sure shaping up to be another feel-bad movie about nasty people. I skipped ahead and watched the start of the next few chapters, and was glad I did because it looked like yet again we were going to delve into the sex lives of children, and that's officially a topic that I will never warm to. So I hopped to the ending and watched it. <sarcasm> Wow. Deep. </sarcasm>
So I said all that to say this:
Even the nastiest of people and the most mundane people have moments of glory, compassion, and transcendence. So many of these stories labeled and excused as "observations of the little moments in life" completely miss or purposely leave out the moments of wonder that do occur for everyone. No, to them, it's all shite and moldy scones, baby.
Stephen King points out that bad guys in fiction don't think they're the bad guy, so don't write them with that incorrect self-awareness.
That rule can be extended to apply to these flawed people that inhabit these dull indie films; they don't know they're flawed, and they have moments of triumph, too, so show them. Balance out the pain and humiliation with victories so we, the audience, can attempt to remain interested.
Of course, if you're a dedicated fan of Kafka and think he's what fiction should aspire to (interestingly enough, that's the opinion of the Jeff Daniel's character), then you'd disagree with me. (One of the reviews on Amazon.com by Wesley Mullins proclaims this movie is "Not for the Philistines.")
But consider this: Even Hitler had a girlfriend.