The Squid and the Whale (2005) Poster

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8/10
Moral of the Story: Divorce Is Tough
evanston_dad22 November 2005
A friend of mine was hesitant to see this movie, because she'd heard that it pushes the agenda that divorce is never a good option for dealing with marital problems. I don't really know who told her this, and I hope this same reason isn't keeping others from seeing it. This isn't at all what I took away from the film. It certainly communicates the idea that divorce isn't easy, on either the parents or the kids, but I don't feel that it pronounces judgement on those who turn to it as an option.

"The Squid and the Whale" is a sad--though at times very funny--look at what divorce does to one family in 1986 New York. Jeff Daniels plays the dad, a pompous, arrogant writer whose feelings of commercial failure (he teaches literature at a university) cause him to act intellectually superior to everyone he meets. Daniels is almost too good in this role; he reminded me way too much of people I actually know who are like this. He's the kind of guy who would be deadly at a dinner party, because there's no such thing as a casual or flippant remark in this guy's presence. He analyzes everything to death, and isn't content until everyone's opinion matches his own.

Laura Linney plays the wayward mom, blamed for the break up of the marriage by the dad because of a string of affairs she carries on. Her guilt keeps her from being able to discipline her sons, especially the oldest, who treats her horribly. Linney's role is smaller but in some ways much more complex than Daniels'. Her character has to take responsibility for her infidelity but still make the audience sympathize with her.

Caught in the middle of this mess are their two boys. The oldest quickly allies himself with his dad, and walks around regurgitating his father's opinions on every subject, rarely pausing to form any of his own. The younger son, more sensitive and tired of being intellectually brow beaten by his father and older brother, sticks closer to the mom. No one is totally to blame, yet no one is completely innocent either in this honest and frank film.

Noah Baumbach has made no secret of the fact that it is based on his own adolescent life, and it has that confessional feeling that movies in this genre frequently do. There are awkward moments when this doesn't totally work. The ending for one is rather ham-fisted, and a scene between the oldest son and his school therapist seemed awfully pat to me. But the acting and the sharp writing make up for these weaknesses, and the movie manages to be poignant without ever becoming maudlin or overly sentimental.

See it for the performances of Linney and especially Daniels, who has been proving his versatility as an actor over the last few years.

Grade: A-
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8/10
One Turtle would have made it Better
David Ferguson30 October 2005
Greetings again from the darkness. Writer/Director (and Wes Anderson collaborator) Noah Baumbach presents a semi-autobiographical therapy session where he unleashes the anguish and turmoil that has carried over from his childhood. The result is an amazing insight into what many people go through in a desperate attempt to try and make their family work.

The casting of Jeff Daniels forces us to view him as the grown up Flap from "Terms of Endearment". He has become a bitter, unfocused, pompous ass of a person, father, husband and professor. The inability to recapture the magic of his early writing success has caused him to look down on all other writers ... whether they be Fitzgerald or his own wife. This is Daniels' best work ever on screen and is at once, painful and a joy to behold.

Laura Linney plays his wife as a woman who loves her kids unequivocally and has a zest for life that her downbeat husband no longer shares. Her new found success as a writer sets her off on a trail of confidence and joy, all the while understanding that her family still needs her very much.

The kids really take the film to the next level. Jessie Eisenberg (brilliant in "Roger Dodger") and Owen Kline (son of Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates) are both scene stealers as they struggle in their own distinct ways with their separated parents and their continuance through adolescence. Watching Eisenberg's worship his dad and subsequently realize the truth is just amazing stuff. Kline's outbursts on the tennis court and at the ping pong table are nothing compared to his discovery of alcohol and self-pleasure. The angst and pain these two experience is felt by millions of kids in divorce situations.

Other outstanding performances include William Baldwin (the one from "Backdraft"), Holly Feifer (as Eisenberg's first girlfriend) and Anna Paquin (underused, but still very effective). Baldwin provides some comic relief with his incessant "my brother" narrative and Feifer is extraordinary in capturing teen adoration as she lusts after Eisenberg. Thanks to her distinct similarity in looks to Linney, I laughed outloud when Daniels tells Eisenberg "she's not my type".

Listening to Daniels try to manipulate everyone he communicates with causes immense dislike among viewers, but we can't help but feel some empathy for him as he seems to believe he is doing all he can do put his family back together. His fatherly advice is not to be missed (or followed!). Watching him look for the perfect parking place is really his search for his place in a world that has deserted him.

Baumbach has created a terrific film and probably exorcised some personal demons along the way. Definitely not a film for the whole family, but it offers much insight and many messages. Also the use of the soundtrack is downright brilliant including key music from Pink Floyd and Loudon Wainright.
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1/10
Boring, predictable, and just crass.
kathleen-pangan10 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I just watched The Squid and the Whale. My sister recommended it to me, saying it was an indie film with a ton of awards and some famous people like Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, and William Baldwin. Having not watched an independent film in some time, and having planned on a date with my Mom for this movie, I was excited to watch it. Boy was I disappointed.

The movie is set in the 1980s in Brooklyn, and is about a divorce between two writers and how the separation affects everyone in the family, including their two boys. Everyone hurts everyone, they all cuss at each other, they're all having sex with someone inappropriate or masturbating in public. The job does a good job at making you feel uncomfortable, and maybe that's the point of the movie. Usually, though, there is a point to the movie. What's the point of this one? Divorce is hard? Well, everyone knows that. It was predictable and just boring with a crass overtone. I started cutting mosaic tiles in the middle of the movie because it was so boring and predictable. It was definitely not an enjoyable film, or even thought-provoking. It didn't even do a good job at making me feel depressed, if that was what it was supposed to do, although it did make me mad at my sister for recommending this stupid film which was a definite waste of my two hours.
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9/10
depressingly refreshing
gdsoul8 November 2005
More acutely than I've experienced in a long time, this film captures the process of personality inheritance within families. The interaction/influence between Bernard and Walt is almost painful to watch at times, but it's completely rich. Beyond just that father/son dynamic, the story is so poignant without ever getting sappy - a true accomplishment for a family drama involving divorce. Nothing hits you over the head. Nothing seems too forced. While there's plenty of confusion, discomfort, and alienation, a sense of love shines through, and I couldn't help but get attached to all of the characters. I recommend this film unconditionally.
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10/10
Patricide with a dull knife
Mel Klein25 September 2005
Noah Baumbach takes a loving (oh?) stab at his parents' divorce, brought on by the hilariously immature antics of his father, and my writing professor, the ever pompous Jonathan Baumbach (Jeff Daniels).

Brooklyn College was a hotbed of activism and liberal arts when I first encountered Jonathan Baumbach (rechristened "Bernard" in the film, a sly wink at Jonathan's mentor and hero, Bernard Malamud). The arrogance and complete lack of self awareness is perfectly captured by Daniels in his over-the-top performance which, amazingly, underplays the actual father.

To call the picture patricidal is to completely miss the point; Baumbach pere is so self centered, he likely sees the film as an homage. Baumbach Sr. is a great writer; he receives good reviews in the literary journals and his books sell in the hundreds. Baumbach Jr., on the other hand, is a great filmmaker, and his movies (The Life Aquatic) are seen by millions. I'm sure the father is disappointed that the son isn't pursuing tenure at a small Ohio college.

I saw this film in a cozy college theater at the Toronto Film Festival. I half expected to run into Jonathan Baumbach, in his leather patched tweed jacket, preening for the audience and eying the coeds.

Funny and poignant. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll want to choke the bastard.
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8/10
Well Drawn Characters
mkillian1 December 2005
It's interesting to read all of the comments and how each reviewer has found something unique that calls to them. Some reviewers have focused on the boys or the father or the mother. Different scenes have been noted, almost none by more than one reviewer. What this tells me is that the writer/director has crafted a story in which all of the scenes contribute to the whole. This was my experience watching the movie. It was believable, well shot, great backgrounds, all in all a treat for anyone who loves movies and can handle some pretty raw dialog/situations.....and nothing gets blown up.

I would recommend this only for adults or a very mature teenager. The language and situations are tough but as I said, very believable. I identified with much of what the teens in this movie are going through and my sympathies definitely sided with them against their self-involved and self-indulgent parents. This is the best role I've ever seen Jeff Daniels in and having known men in my life like his character I think he was spot-on with his portrayal. There were no weak characterizations with any of the actors, for that matter.
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9/10
Your Mother's Brother Ned was a Philistine
DaveTheNovelist2 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Noah Baumbach's semi-autobiographical tale of divorce in the mid-1980's in Brooklyn is funny and touching and ranks right up there with the best work of Woody Allen or Sophia Coppola as superb bourgeois cinema where we are treated to the neurotic underbelly of over-educated, over-indulged, upwardly mobile, urban middle class families. This a wonderful film imbued with a fantastic sense of place and time and small details in which the viewer can find great delight (like the hilarious scene where Jeff Daniels takes his teenage son and the kid's new girlfriend to see David Lynch's "Blue Velvet" instead of the first choice "Short Circuit" or the closing shot of the actual squid fighting a whale at the NYC Musueum of Natural History).

Jeff Daniels is slyly funny as the cheapskate, snobbish father who was once the toast of the literary world and is now just getting by on teaching. Laura Linney is again perfection (when is she not, really) as the mother just starting her own brilliant literary career and who is a bit too open about her sexuality with her children. While the parents bicker over custody (even the cat gets to skate between two homes), the older son acts out by plagiarizing Pink Floyd in a talent show and nervous encounters with girls (one of whom is his father's live-in student/lover played by the always alluring Anna Paquin), and the younger son (a very good Owen Kline-real life son of Kevin Kline and Pheobe Cates) turns to drinking alone and public masturbation.

It's all as awkward, real, and devastatingly funny as it sounds. A great script and even better acting highlight this tale of a family on the skids. Every member of the family is brilliantly brought to life and even though they are acting in their own flawed, selfish, self-annihilating and myopic ways, they still endear themselves to the audience like they are our own family.

Bottom line: Only a Philistine would turn down the chance to enjoy "The Squid and the Whale."
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10/10
Great script and a cast of champions
ElijahB2219 September 2005
Almost a perfect movie. Everyone needs to see this one.

Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney are both extraordinary. Factor in the performances of Jesse Eisenberg and Owen Kline and this may be the most well-acted movie I've seen in a couple of years.

I've never enjoyed watching Daniels so much. Kline hits a home-run in his first major role. Eisenberg's performance is Oscar-worthy. (Yes, Daniels is great, but Eisenberg earns a Best Supporting Actor nomination in this one!)

What I enjoyed most of all is how some very, VERY delicate humor is brilliantly woven throughout this incredibly sad movie.

Cheers to Noah Baumbach for putting his life on paper and letting these terrific actors tell the tale.

That's it. Thanks for reading.
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1/10
This movie left me with one burning question (LOTS O' SPOILERS)
lola8830 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
What about the freaking cat?? It's the only character in the whole damn movie I cared about. Oh, and Sophie--I hope she ran far and fast.

It's bizarre that so many people and journalists raved about this. It's emotionally unsophisticated and full of tired clichés about pompous academics and Park Slope liberals. The director's completely unresolved issues are painfully displayed. Dude. Therapy. Get some.

The father is so one-dimensional that he's not interesting to watch. But the mother--who is clearly the sympathetic parent in the director's eyes--is also horrible. Because her husband is so awful she's allowed to cheat on him for years? And did no one else think that SHE was equally responsible for leaving Frank alone for the weekend? He's a child--what if her husband had had his heart attack then? And where was she going that she couldn't wait 30 minutes for her ex to show up? Also, saving up the "you wanted joint custody because you're cheap" revelation timing for maximum emotional crippling? Nice. All in all, a family full of miserable people who all deserved one another.

Do not be deceived by the stated running time: One and a half hours of torture can seem like five.
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8/10
Although the Title is a bit Cryptic...The Message is Very Clear!
KissEnglishPasto2 August 2016
........................................................from Pasto,Colombia...Via: L.A. CA., CALI, COLOMBIA and ORLANDO, FL

For dyed in the wool fans of European cinema, The Squid and the Whale, an independent production, Grand Prize winner at the "Sundance" Film Festival, has much more in common with films from the old continent than with those huge budget Hollywood productions. IMDb lists its budget as 1.5 Million, most certainly paltry, especially when compared to the 100 to 200 million dollar behemoths that abound in LA-LA-LAND! So if the European style is to your liking, we guarantee that "Squid" will truly enchant you!

To justify my initial assertion, let's just analyze SQUID for a moment:

A) No CGI effects, No car chases or crashes, and no 100 Decibel Explosions!

B) SQUID is highly character-driven

C) SQUID is very heavy on intense, highly focused dialog

D) SQUID's characters have almost no physical contact, but engage in relentless psychological arm-wrestling!

E) SQUID resorts to NO cinematic gimmicks of any kind, whatsoever!

F) Considering that both Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney appear in SQUID, with its minuscule budget, it cannot be anything other than a TRUE labor of love!

If the above list hits some of your cinematic hot buttons… You really MUST SEE Squid!

If you are unphased…DON'T!!!!!…Simple as that!

....8 STARS! ENJOY!/DISFRUTELA!

Any comments, questions or observations, in English o en Español, are most welcome!
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