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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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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

conflict

6/10
Author: leopoldfrank from Wirral, UK
18 April 2006

I'll quickly run through the bits of my review I'm least interested in saying. It's about a family with 2 kids going through a divorce. The acting is great. The music is like a WA (you'll hear his name more in a moment) film but not quite as subtle.

And so... I had few expectations before going to see this other than knowing it was about divorce and by Noah Baumbach who had worked with Wes Anderson who has made a couple of films that I love.

From the start the similarities were obvious. The Wes Anderson direction was there but with a story with more emotional depth. As well as loving WA I love emotional films so I thought this was going to be great but, unfortunately, I was slightly disappointed by the end.

The WA style of direction is done very well but is just too facetious and ended up neutralising any of the emotional depth the story had to offer. The focus of the story seemed to bounce around too randomly from character to character and the pace was all over the place not leaving the mind enough time to settle and slide naturally from one feeling to the next.

I find myself being really disappointed, not because it wasn't that good, more because the writing and the acting were of such a high standard that perhaps if it had been directed with more sensitivity it could have been a classic.

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2 out of 3 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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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Philistines vs. Intellectuals

7/10
Author: moonspinner55 from las vegas, nv
9 January 2008

A stimulating, provoking, occasionally overwrought autobiographical drama from talented writer-director Noah Baumbach, with intricate details (artistic, musical, and otherwise) that stay with one long after the movie is over. Brooklyn parents in 1986, a fallen novelist who is now teaching and his wife who is a successful writer, decide to end their marriage, causing emotional turmoil for their two sons. The boys, who begin to act out their frustrations in sexual and hurtful ways, can't get a grip on what emotions they're supposed to have, which parent to be loyal to, and how to put the past into perspective. This is certainly ground the cinema has covered before, but not recently in such a direct, forceful way. The parents (exceptionally well-played by Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney) prod at each other in verbal jousts, yet each approach the job of parenting in the exact same way (they give their kids free reign to speak and feel the way they want to). The language is barbed, but very real, very natural, and the children are shaky but unyielding, tough little kids. Some sequences are overwritten (though not overplayed), such as when Daniels and Linney are called to their youngest son's school for a talk with the principal and, at the conclusion of a prickly discussion, the female authority compliments the wife on her magazine article. In the midst of the film, which is most often heavy, literate drama, a splurge of levity is usually welcomed, though Baumbach's penchant for facile cuteness can sometimes render a moment false--particularly if the design of the scene in question is proceeding so well. Aside from secondary flaws (and a brief running time of 81 minutes), "The Squid and the Whale" is bursting with human feelings and emotions that most filmmakers tend to shy away from (perhaps because audiences recoil, too). Baumbach is very nimble in bringing his viewers into this tumultuous familial circle with ease, and the great technical skill of the film combined with the wonderful acting is enough to leave one breathless. *** from ****

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Bizarrely interesting, yet incomplete ...

6/10
Author: vram22 from United States
27 December 2007

This movie was a kind of a half-finished drama about kids coping with their parent's divorce. The characters are unusually strange and are somehow engaging enough to make the movie above-average.

Basically, this is the story of a family that is going through a divorce. The two parents are highly literate PhD writers and the two kids are young, literate boys. There are no stereotypic screaming matches or scheming. The movie focuses on how the boys are deeply affected by the situation.

Because this is a movie of fairly literate people, it's slightly more interesting than the usual group of characters one normally sees on screen. The acting is pretty decent too. The only problem is that the story is never very interesting. Furthermore, after watching the movie, I felt like part of the story was missing.

It's a decent movie, but not good enough for someone go out of their way to watch it.

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2 out of 3 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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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Great work but I didn't care

6/10
Author: Frank Hankey from Jersey City, NJ, USA
1 October 2006

I found myself really appreciating the acting and admiring the honesty of the writing to a degree. But I wound found myself not giving a damn about any of the spoiled brats or their kids, so i didn't even make it through the whole picture. I read review that talked about the humor and hilarity. Missed that completely. Maybe what I found awkward painful, pathetic and sad was something others found amusing. At the same time I can see how it might resonate strongly with others. I generally feel Jeff Daniels is underrated and his is a generous performance. The same goes for Laura Linney. I gave up on it because it didn't seem to be heading anywhere but down. Nor was I invited to appreciate much about the characters.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Sad that it ended

9/10
Author: F_Jenkins from la
24 April 2006

Someone had the best heading in their comments; "Cast of champions." Never was there a truer statement. This movie has such a superb cast and script, I really wanted it to go longer. The kids were great. No angst ridden, mean spirited kids who recited "I hate you" every other sentence (although there is tension between the kids and parents, it's not the clichéd, unlikeable kids you see in every other movie).

I guess Bill Murray was supposed to play the father originally but Jeff Daniels was excellent here, I wouldn't have wanted this movie cast in any other way, even with the Baldwin brother who says "my brother" at the end of every sentence.

Every scene is short, it's that Sidney Lumet-type quick scene, on to the next one here, and it works so great.

A true triumph, I loved everything about this film and recommend it highly to everyone.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

It was 1986, and the 17 year marriage was coming unraveled.

8/10
Author: TxMike from Houston, Tx, USA, Earth
19 April 2006

I mused as I watched this movie, they were married in 1969, and 17 years later, in 1986, they found themselves only able to get a divorce. I married in 1968, and 17 years later, in 1985, I was also getting a divorce. Like that couple, I don't think I ever knew for sure why.

Jeff Daniels is Bernard Berkman, professor and author who was absolutely manipulative, of his students, his wife, their sons -- whatever it took to get past the moment. He loved no one, not even himself, and got great joy out of such conquests as beating his young son in ping-pong. And giving his teenage son advice to play the field, women are objects for the pleasure of men.

Laura Linney is Bernard's wife Joan. After she found out that she could be a successful writer, she began to tire of her husband's overbearing ways. But she too was weak, and had been having an affair for several years. That they broke up was not the fault of either. They grew in different directions and were unable to see the situation realistically. That probably is the most common symptom of this kind of breakup.

Caught in the middle are the two sons, Walt and Frank. Walt, the teen, idolizes his dad, and in a very shallow manner talks scholarly about things he has not taken the time to read. He "composes" a song for a school talent show, wins the prize, but it is discovered that he took a song that had already been written. When asked why, he responded, "I could have written that song. The fact that someone else did was just a technicality."

For the most part the movie is very unusual, but also very well written and interesting. Here we have these flawed people trying to navigate through this family mess, and somehow they seem they will survive. It has a nice touch of realism through it, and is also very funny at times.

The title comes from's Walt's fear, as a small child, of the squid and whale exhibit at the museum.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

what's the title mean?

8/10
Author: huffman2005 from China
10 March 2006

This movie is great.As a non-English speaking foreigner,I can understand the whole meaning of the film.But as to some details,I have some questions. I wonder why this movie called"the squid and the whale" and what's the meaning of the scene that Chicken went to the museum to see the squid and the whale. I've heard the song "Hey You"by Pink Floid,but as a literature teacher who likes movies and culture Bernard would know this popular song which has a great impact on the society.He would notice it wasn't his son who made it. so I wanna ask people who have seen this film to tell me or explain something about what I don't know.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

slice-of-(liberal)-life

4/10
Author: movieman_kev from United States
1 February 2007

Noam Baumbach's autobiographical tale of dealing with his parent's divorce in New York of the late's 80 is also the latest art house film I've seen that's highly overrated, self absorbed, self-important, narcissistic, and menial (see also "American Beauty", "Life as a House", etcetera...). These type of films always seem to draw the fancy of the most liberal minded academia and aging hipsters who find comfort in neurotic narcissism. Not to knock Noam at all, as he wrote one of my favorite films with "Life Aquatic" (the main reason I give this a try), however this film was simply mundanely uninvolving and seemed more a way for him to exorcise his demons than anything else. and man oh man what liberal "progressive" demons they are. From the hard drinking, spunk spreading little brother to the self absorbed literary snob father, to the floozy mother, this movie is a slice of something. I'm just not really sure if that something is all that good.

My Grade: C-

Where I saw it: Starz-on-Demand

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