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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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7 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

"You Disgust Me!"

1/10
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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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Pointless

1/10
Author: barlowralph from United States
23 January 2014

If there was any particular point to be made, or lesson to be learned from this movie, it was obscured to the point of being entirely unrecognizable. The five most prominent characters in the story are uniformly without any kind of appeal, and seem to have only their own narcissistic egotistical requirements in view. There is nothing here to suggest that the viewer should have any kind of empathy or sympathy for any of these people. The dialogue was generously peppered with f***s and sh**s and god-dammits which only served to diminish my already-low interest. I only stayed to the end with this movie because I kept hoping there was something more to it. There wasn't. It was a waste of my time.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

a winner - and i don't know exactly why

9/10
Author: zif ofoz from United States
6 May 2013

there is no 'plot' to this wonderful indie flick! it's just a look at a family falling apart and the parents unwilling to meet the other half-way and the negative and positive effects on the children.

this is one of those movies you can watch over and over and over and always find something new and interesting in the dialog and the character each actor portrays. the more you watch the more complex each member of this family becomes. it is almost as if you must view the film once for each character in the four member family.

each one learns a lesson about himself and just growing up living daily life in a upper middle class and possibly over educated family.

i enjoyed this movie for many reasons!

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

jusco's review: The Squid and the Whale

9/10
Author: jusco15
24 December 2010

Indie films always works its magic on me. Maybe it's because I'm an artsy type of person, looking for some meaning so complex it's impossible to find and comprehend. Or maybe I just simply enjoy the complicated blend of emotions these films invoke because it is so reality grounded, so personal, that I feel for the characters. There is a sort of intimacy that allows me to relate more closely to the people involved in often painful, often heartbreaking, and ironically, often hilarious drama.

The Squid and the Whale is semi-autobiographical, based on Noah Baumbach's own life. Set in Brooklyn, NY in 1986, the story involves a family filled with tension. You sense it right from the start, and you can easily guess what's going to happen. The parents, after being married for 17 years, are fed up with each other and announce to their two boys their imminent separation, leading to joint custody. They were a normal family; in fact, a bit more intellectual and sophisticated than most – both parents are phD holders in English literature, which naturally leads to conversations about Dickens and Kafka over the dinner table. Even the children (one in high school, the other in middle school) seem a bit more mature. But when various rumours that turn out to be truths emerge, relations are all the more strained. What results is a family war, the children forced to take sides with either one of their parents.

At times, this film is excruciating to watch. It is so real and raw (and that can be accredited to the director's personal experiences). Both children figure out their own ways of dealing with the shock, be it through girlfriends or beer. At the same time, the parents are in agony; can this marriage still be saved? Ultimately, though, it seems as though all is lost. Everything seems to sink into quiet solitariness.

However, this film is not all bleak and desolate. In fact, one might even get a glimpse of hope at the end through the older son's exploration of the past, of memories, of one's own actions and regretful consequences (played by Jesse Eisenberg – it's a shame he wasn't well-known before The Social Network, for he truly shines here). Through various prejudices, assumptions and revelations, we are invited to meditate on life. Along with the characters, we are led on a journey of constant discovery. And though everything may seem dismal and unpromising, there is still the possibility of unearthing redemption, however small it may turn out to be. But then again, sometimes that small spark is just what we need.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

An honest, funny, and different indie film

9/10
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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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Baumbach takes a major step forward as a filmmaker with this film.

8/10
Author: G K from Mars
11 May 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The film is bitterly funny about divorce, it's even sharper and more original about intellectuals and their discontent. Two teenage boys in 1980s Brooklyn watch with horror as their writer parents' once happy marriage slowly collapses into bitterness. After their split, the boys are coerced into taking sides.

The Squid And The Whale is a coming-of-age story as well as an account of a failing marriage; superlatively well-acted, with Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney in peak form. Director Noah Baumbach also wrote the perceptive, acutely observed and loosely autobiographical script, which is wonderfully literate and witty.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

The Squid and the Whale

7/10
Author: film_riot from Austria
24 May 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is what I call fresh film-making. With "The Squid and the Whale", writer-director Noah Baumbach made a funny, sad, intelligent and sometimes bizarre film with great characters. If you haven't heard anything of it before you might think you're watching the latest Wes Anderson-film because of the characters. The father (brilliantly played by Jeff Daniels): a writer without success, but a huge ego. The mother (equally brilliant: Laura Linney): the most "normal" of the bunch, with an interesting taste in men. The kids (Jesse Eisenberg and Owen Kline): playing cover versions of Pink Floyd and pretending having written them themselves or masturbating and spreading the semen on books and school lockers. But "The Squid and the Whale" has more than just its characters. It's a precise analysis of family divorce and the dynamics behind it. When mother and son are done with blaming each other and are starting to try to understand what each of them is going through, that is actually a really heart-warming moment. And if I'm allowed to say it, also a typical Wes Anderson-moment.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Indie at its finest

7/10
Author: Patryk Czekaj from Warsaw
25 October 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is one of those indie flicks that make you realize the great magic of the independent movie industry. We, regular people, don't get to see them very often. They aren't as popular as the tremendously expensive studio productions. Nevertheless, sometimes those low budget indie pictures make us debate over their importance in our modern world. The Squid and the Whale won two awards at the prestigious Sundance Festival. It wasn't really a surprise, because the story told in this movie is a one-of-a-kind experience. Two boys (Walt and Frank), aged 16 and 12, living in Brooklyn, NYC, go through a rough time, while their parents are in the middle of a divorce. Devastated, they start to perceive the world in a different way, make their private mother-father choices and interfere with the wrong parts of their lives. But most importantly, they grow up in front of their parents. Sexual tension is all over these young boys, which seems to cause a serious problem at school and at home. Even the parents have their moments of abeyance, while flirting with some new lovers. Fortunately, the boys occasionally find the right paths and realize that the love of a parent doesn't depend on the two of them being together, but on their honest dedication. The bright star of this movie is Jesse Eisenberg – this is the role that paved him a way to another great productions. Also, Owen Kline as a young, lost kid is really convincing. Personally, I consider the role of Lili (Anna Paquin) as the one, who deserver the most credit. She is not only a student and lover of the boys' father, Bernard, but also Walt's love object. Even though this flick isn't a no-brainer, but exactly the opposite, it can be understandable to anyone. Especially, people, who had to go over by such a trauma, would feel that the portrayal is realistic in many various ways. Finally, I would like to recommend this movie to everyone as a reminder of the old times, when a low budget and lack of special effects didn't mean that the movie wouldn't be a hit. I would also love to see more independent productions, which are made with such passion.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

But you didn't write it.

9/10
Author: Meganeguard from Kansas
7 December 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Living within the posh Brownstones of Brooklyn, New York, the author Bernard Berkman seems to live an ideal life: he is well off financially, has a great mind filled with knowledge about film and literature, and has a family consisting of a wife, two sons, and a cat. However, things are not quite as ideal, are they ever?, as they seem on the surface. While he was once a noted writer of literary fiction, few publishers are now, 1986, interested in his manuscripts while his wife's writing begins to pick up steam. Highly competitive and suffering from a strong sense of insecurity that many successful individuals display. Bernard becomes extraordinarily pedantic and attempts to hold off others from breaking through his shell. Absolutely miserable in their relationship, Bernard's wife Joan seeks solace with other men and it is obvious through their actions with each other that Bernard and Joan have come to disdain each other. Bernard constantly states that he was not commercially successful enough to please his wife. Caught in the crossfire of this failing marriage are of course their children: Walt and Frank.

Walt, who idolizes his dad, is quite emotionally distant as well and supports his dad no matter what and Frank, the younger of the two sons, supports his mother. One day after a particularly venom filled tennis match between Bernard and Walt and Joan and Franks, a family meeting is called and Bernard and Joan inform Walt and Frank that they intend to separate and that they will have joint custody of the boys who will spend three days a week at the home of each parent with Thursday alternating each week. Of course Walt and Frank dislike this proposal, but what can they do? They are minors and have to go along with the system. Even after the break up the animosity between Bernard and Joan is felt and it affects Walt and Frank greatly with the former becoming even more withdrawn and full of vitriol and the latter delving into alcohol.

The Squid and the Whale is basically an 81 minute film about a bitter divorce of two intellectuals who seemingly were quite at odds with each other for a number of years. Jeff Daniel's portrayal of Bernard is magnificent and his character is thoroughly unlikable,but it would be too easy to just demonize Bernard, each character has their own flaws which we are treated to in this film. Also, the film's music is absolutely superb with the likes of Loudon Wainwright III and Lou Reed.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

muddy plot yet great acting

6/10
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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