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The Squid and the Whale
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Reviews & Ratings for
The Squid and the Whale More at IMDbPro »

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

An honest, funny, and different indie film

Author: Jenna from United States
4 August 2010

A semi-autobiographical indie film about a quirky, dysfunctional family could go a number of ways. It could be self-indulgent, cutesy, pretentious, or just plain annoying. Its attempts at humor and originality could fall flat.

But this isn't the case with The Squid and the Whale, the story of a family after the parents have agreed to separate and share joint custody of their two troubled sons. The screenplay is superb, filled with uniquely funny lines, true observations, and insults that sting. Screenwriter/director Noah Baumbach had worked with producer Wes Andersen on The Life Aquatic and Fantastic Mr. Fox, and the film unsurprisingly has a Wes Andersen vibe to it. Andersen's films, however, are so unusual that they seem to take place in a rarefied otherworld. Baumbach has dug into his own experience to create something honest, real, and relatable no matter what your family experience is.

Aside from the screenplay and direction, the performances are so good it is often unclear who the main character is. Each member of Bachman family is hilariously flawed yet strangely likable. Jeff Daniels is hysterical as the unabashedly self-centered father who is also a creative-writing teacher. Laura Linney as the well-meaning mom is the heart of the movie, and as usual she so embodies her character that it never seems like she is acting. Jesse Eisenberg is the quintessential pretentious nerd – I can see why he was cast in Network. Owen Kline as the oddball younger son is endearing. The supporting performers – Billy Baldwin as the hippieish tennis instructor, Anna Paquin as the sexy graduate student, and Halley Feiffer as Eisenberg's sweet but ordinary girlfriend – are perfectly cast. Baldwin's character is particularly funny.

It's delightful, smart, and different. I didn't expect I would like it, but at the end all I could think was "I want more!"

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Great casting, disappointing and predictable

Author: grahammorrison12 from United Kingdom
30 December 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I had very high hopes about this film, i watched Greenberg last night and really enjoyed that so i thought that i would check out The Squid and the Whale. After hearing mostly positive reviews i was fairly certain i would appreciate this. The film felt like it lasted a lot longer than it did, i kept checking the time-line to see how much more of the film i had to watch, as i found myself asking "surely thats been 80 minuets now. it was also very hard to connect with, feel sorry or even like any of the characters with the exception of Sophie and the cat. in saying this i am not saying that the cast were bad quite the opposite, hat goes of to Daniels i thought he was terrific its just a shame he was playing such an ass-hole of a character. As the film went on i wasn't even having to think about how it was going to unfold, i felt i could have just watched the first 30 minuets of the film and could figure the rest of it out.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

muddy plot yet great acting

Author: oprahhhhhhh from United States
24 July 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Despite the fine performances of all actors in The Squid and the Whale, the strength of this movie is overshadowed by the outrageous and underdeveloped plot line. The story is about two brothers, Walt and Frank Berkman, whose parents, Bernard and Joan, are going through a very difficult divorce. Throughout the ordeal, each child slowly moves towards one of the parents. Walt, pushed away from his mother when Bernard reveals that she had countless affairs, becomes his father, taking up his idioms, demeanor and literary criticisms. Frank also encountersa change, talking crudely, drinking alcohol and masturbating in school. Eventually, both parents move toward other people, however brief the encounters may be. In the end, Bernard collapses outside his old apartment after being rejected by his ex-wife, and Walt realizes that he truly does love his mother. Despite the blatantly crude story, the plot is very underdeveloped. As the only conflict that is solved in the end is the one between Walt and his mother, that should be what the rest of the movie should focus on, right? Actually, the rest of the movie deviates into other tangents, only briefly touching on the point that Joan truly does love her son. The only thing that makes up for the characters' horrid nature is the actors, who superbly made each one of them come to life. I give this movie a six

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Whale Chewing Squid Frightens Child

Author: mike rice ( from Sparta, Wisconsin 54656
6 March 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney play husband and wife Bernard and Linda Berkman. They live in Park Slope in Brooklyn. Both are PHDs in their forties. Bernie has had a couple of novels published and teaches at a local college. His wife apparently stays home with their two boys.

The dilemma of the two boys, Walt, roughly 15, and Frank, 11, is that their folks are breaking up and they aren't making it easy on their two kids. In fact, they're making it very hard.

There will be two homes, and each kid will switch to the other parents house each day. It is never discussed but that means the two boys never get to live together. The screenplay never even presents this as a problem for the two boys.

Bernie immediately strikes the audience as totally selfish and self-serving, and his oldest son Walt is his totally naive acolyte. When Bernie says Kafka's Metamorphosis is the ultimate book, Walt peddles the same stuff to a potential girlfriend. His high school counselor detects instantly that he has not read the book or any of the others he claims knowledge of. But Bernie develops self-serving alibis for Walt, like he does for himself, which is probably why Bernie's career as a novelist ended in his twenties.

The two parents are mostly unaware their kids are falling apart emotionally. Frank is still a kid but he has begun masturbating in elementary school and wiping the residue on selected girls' lockers. His brother has presented a song to an audience at a high school talent contest as his own, when it is really the work of a famous member of a rock group.

Walt is having trouble at Dad's too. Bernie has mostly resisted the potential groupie students in the literature courses he teaches. But then he finds out about the affairs Linda has been having with men in the neighborhood, even the kids' lame tennis teacher Ivan, played by William Baldwin.

Bernie invites one of the more forward groupies at the college to live temporarily at the house. Walt has a high school girl roughly his own age he is working on, but his father's student is starting to rouse him too.

Meanwhile, Frank, though only 11, has begun to drink beer and whiskey, and both kids swear and use foul language in front of both their parents. The key thing here is the two boys are losing it more each day and all Bernie can do is try and poison Walt against Linda. Linda too is unaware of the disintegration of her two boys. She's got a career to run.

It all comes to a head when Walt confesses to the school counselor that he used to like his mother some when they watched Robin Hood together on television, and when she reassured him after he saw the picture of an enormous whale swallowing the squid at the Museum of Natural History. He liked her before his brother Frank was born. A light bulb goes off in the heads of the audience but the school counselor still looks a little clueless.

Bernie is now so out of it with loss, he comes to Linda's house and asks if she would consider having him back. Linda laughs at this but the kids, both of them present, begin to wise up to the mendacity of their father and the new emerging confidence of their Mom. While Bernie's career is in limbo, Linda publishes a novel Bernie warned she would never be able to complete, and gets a short story published in the New Yorker.

Bernie's behavior is transparent to the audience throughout the movie. He is a total user, but Frank has sided with his mother and Walt with his Dad.

I was laughing at Bernie and Linda, mostly Bernie, though Linda has many moments too. The two parents were letting their kids regularly insult them, but when 15 year old Walt calls his mom a bitch, even Linda is alarmed and complains. This is when the two kids start to realize their parents particularly Bernie, have clay feet. Walt stops listening to his father, though Bernie has collapsed in the street from something and has had to be taken to a hospital by ambulance.

When the kids realize Bernie has been using them, the recovery is underway. Now that they know it isn't they who are screwed up, the two boys can begin to recover.

The film was written and directed by Noah Baumbach, whose parents himself and his brother are the subjects of this true story. Jeff Daniels gives his best performance ever, Laura Linney is fearless as Bernie's distraught wife. The two young actors who play the sons come close to breaking the hearts of the audience toward the end. The film is not a tragedy, its a tragicomedy.

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5 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

"You Disgust Me!"

Author: ldavis-2 from I am here. Where are you?
11 October 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I want to congratulate the brave souls here who ignored the raves about this pile of dung I just saw on the Starz Freeview, and gave it the 1 and 2 stars it deserves!

Chocked with moronic clichés, everybody in this movie is utterly despicable! Frank guzzles beer, swears like a sailor and "bonds" with library books! Walt - the stand-in for the half-wit behind this snot rag - is an a-hole, born and bred! Both treat their mother with utter contempt. Not that she deserves any respect, but I was shocked at how they spoke to her. Had I told my mother "You disgust me", I would have gotten the tar beaten out of me! But the mom just stares. She later gives Walt a half-hearted slap because he makes it clear that he hates her for (among other things) putting out for a Baldwin!

The dad is a royal prick. When he has a heart attack while trying to catch the cat, I cheered until I realized that he wasn't going to Hell. Proof there is no God in indie movies made by half-witted snot rags!

But the real crime is Kevin Kline's and Pheobe Cates's decision that Frank would make just a peachy addition to their little rugrat's demo reel. Shame on them!

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9 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Wow This Must Be Deep

Author: scafeets from United States
23 December 2005

It doesn't happen often; but every once in a while, a movie comes along where you dislike every single character. This is one of the few distinctions The Squid and the Whale enjoys. It's hard to make a grade school kid vile and creepy, but director Noah Baumbach accomplishes this and much more. Said to be autobiographical, his cruelty to the family unit is matched by liberal doses of self-loathing and a penchant for making the movie audience squirm. If you like your movies as a slice-of-life, maybe this is for you. Portraying a dysfunctional family going through a divorce, you'll never pick a side since both parties to the disunion are completely repugnant, self-centered and insufferable in equal doses. There's no witty dialog, no action, no interesting cinematography, very little humor -- just familial bickering in a familiar setting. And one of the all-time worst soundtracks you'll ever sit through, with the exception of Pink Floyd's "Hey You" which is pretty much the redundant high point for this film. Allegedly but anachronistically set in 1986, the movie wastes fine acting performances by Jeff Daniels and Jesse Eisenberg, who can't save this slag heap of a story. Run,don't walk to another theater.

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10 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

Went to see an 'art' movie, ended up seeing one about some fish

Author: greiner3 from United States
23 February 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I picked and saw this movie at the local 'art' house. I mistakenly read some critiques before I went and had high expectations of the film. That could be one reason why I hated this! I read that this was a tender-hearted coming-of-age movie filled with light comedy. What was blasted back at me from the screen was trash.

The production values are of a stature of what I would consider independent, not from Hollywood and with a half-way name star in it. The editing was jumpy and the film breaks were noticeable twice. Bernard and Joan may be playing true to form, however they are still rotten human beings. Damn, I would expect behavior coming from a pair of adults to act that way, not be the cause of 50 years of psychoanalysis by their children. The brothers were on a level of existing from the moment they found out their parents were a couple of cads. The cursing and seminal emissions of Frank was revolting, not amusing and not telling in any way. I say that and still think Pink Flamingos had redeeming social qualities. Walt has a myriad of his own problems, the least of which are the mixed up ones in which he sees male-female relationships. What kind of father tells his teenage children that their mother is a whore? If that is rough, the mother admits that she is, well maybe was. There were attempts at humor, however, I was cringing down in my seat and I was not able to fully appreciate them.

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18 out of 34 people found the following review useful:

Dysfunction trivialized.

Author: from Brooklyn, NY
9 April 2006

Ugh. The other reviews note that this story is based on Noah Baumbach's own story of his parent's divorce. But if it's true, does that make him the plagiarizer or the potty-mouthed serial masturbator? It's hard to imagine anyone wanting to immortalize their family with these sloppily constructed, clichéd caricatures of the sort of people you might have found in Park Slope in the 80's. The parents exhibit a reprehensible lack of concern for their kids as they finally arrive at divorce. The mother character is not expanded much beyond showing that she bore her dissatisfaction with her husband by having numerous affairs times during the course of the marriage. The father character is shown as an insecure blow-hard, affected more by his wife's professional success than by her infidelities. The children are, essentially, little versions of their parents, and are emotionally victimized by each of the parents in their (supposed) struggle to cope with their divorce. They develop disturbing habits, which are ill-addressed by the parents who are too busy wallowing in their own miseries to effectively address their children's' unspoken cries for help.

This poor character development & over-abundance of unseemly airing of personal grievance lends this film the feel of a student film.

On the up side, Park Slope was perfectly captured & portrayed, instantly recognizable. I don't know how a big a deal that is considering that it hasn't changed all that much since.

But overall, a disappointment.

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23 out of 44 people found the following review useful:

This movie was awful!

Author: Evan from United States
30 May 2006

The Squid and The Whale is filmmaker Noah Baumbach's rendition of his own dealings with a family's turmoil and problems coping with a bitter divorce.

That being said, this movie was absolutely awful.

I rented this move after reading how deep, great and astounding a movie it was on several film critics' "top ten of the year" list. If this is what they believe to be the best, I'd hate to see the worst. I honestly wonder if the critics and I saw the same film.

This is one of those movies that is so full of itself and pretentious waste, it fails to achieve anything. I was left waiting, the entire length of the film, for it to become "touching", "achingly funny", "witty" or even something resembling coherent or entertainment. I failed to find any of the supposed "humor" in this film; looking back, and reading other reviews, it seems the humor is in one of the brothers' several profanity-laced speeches, or some situation pertaining to underage drinking and drunkenness or playing with bodily fluids. This is definitely a movie I would have left, and would not recommend to anyone, even as a rental. Much, if not all, of the acting is sub-par and anything resembling any sort of plot or rising action is strangely absent. Therefore, it's quite fitting there is little in the way of a resolution or conclusion. This is not the first time I've read and heard glowing reviews of a film, and been sorely disappointed, but this movie was just horrid and is one of the few movies I'm actually sorry I sat and finished, and afterwards felt like I had wasted my time and money.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

A Family Divided

Author: claire-cec from United States
12 November 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

My parents have been together since they were freshmen in high school, so it is always interesting for me to witness the dynamic of a split family. Sure my family isn't perfect, in fact my father was away working for most of my childhood, but it has never been quite as dysfunctional as the family Noah Baumbach so lovingly portrays in this film.

The film has a stellar storyline with its dark dialogue and its spurts of comedic relief, and just its total reality. But the actors are what really make this film. Laura Linney is one of the best, under-appreciated actresses in holiday, and Jeff Daniels has this amazing way of playing a totally likable A**hole. And let's not forget Jesse Eisenberg and Owen Kline's amazing performance as messed up kids. All of the actors/characters really suck you in, and make you feel like you are experiencing their pain first hand. It is awesome.

Funny, dark, depressing and so accurate, this movie takes you inside the war zone that is a divided family, and magically, you come out unscathed. Watch. Learn. Enjoy.

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