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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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42 out of 70 people found the following review useful:

This movie left me with one burning question (LOTS O' SPOILERS)

1/10
Author: lola88 from United States
30 November 2005

*** This review may contain 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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30 out of 47 people found the following review useful:

Flawed film had all the pieces to be great

4/10
Author: nobigdealProductions from Vancouver
11 October 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I'll go a head and warn my review contains *SPOILERS* so if you haven't seen the film I then READ AT YOUR OWN RISK....

I went into the squid and the whale excited but realistic about my expectations for the film. I was impressed by Jesse Eisenberg in Roger Dodger and have always respected Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney and with Noah Baumbach helming I figured the movie was in capable hands. However I did fear that after viewing the trailer that I had already seen the best squid had to offer. In some ways I was right.

Firstly it deserves praise for it's portrayal of adolescent males. I found a lot of truth in Franks character. The scenes in which he studies himself in the mirror reminded me greatly of the same self absorbed and curious qualities I had at that stage in my life. However Baumbach played some of Franks sexual exploits and dirty language in a exploitive manner. The way he was portrayed made his character too much of a tool to shock the audience. In fact many scenes depicting sexuality seemed thrown in. The line were Bernard says to Lili, "Put me in your mouth" was petty and did little to reinforce any character traits that weren't already glaringly clear. I have no problem with risqué dialog or scenes that show characters in a despicable light. However that scene in particular seemed hollow. Bernard or Lili were not developed enough for me to really care that he would say something so rude to her. I already got that he was a self absorbed, loathing character. If Baumbach had used that line to trigger a stronger response in any of the three characters involved it would have felt natural. Instead we see nothing of Lili after and Walt didn't meditate very long after hearing something so low come from his father's mouth. I understand Bernard was a jerk, and used similar language around Walt. But still, it was far harsher then anything he uttered before or after. Yet no one seemed to really notice. I could see how combined with the final argument and Bernard's self absorbed lines in the hospital it could "justify" Walt to see his parents in a clearer light. Yet Baumbach let the moment pass to quickly missing what could have been a stronger beat. Which brings me to my main problem with the film. Baumbach's pacing never lets the audience into the characters heads. He throws things at you and the characters so fast that neither you nor they seem to have the time to let the emotions sink in.

The number one thing that troubled me however was the ending. I understand that Walt mentions he could never look at the squid and the whale fighting but come on! To have him go and look at a giant squid and the whale fight as a way to end the movie? Please, not only do I always question movies that use the title as a line in the film that is "really important" to the story but to have something as petty and unemotional as a character looking at a science sculpture! If it had been better shot it may have work, however I didn't even have the time to let the emotions of the scene sink in before I was slammed with a big Title Card!!! Honestly I felt I was watching an unfinished film and that the editor didn't know what to do so they just put a title card to let the audience know "yes that was all folks!"

One other thing I found useless was the "gag" although no one laughed where Joan comes out of the bathroom and the Walt says something about the nasty smell. Why include this? Was it funny? No! Was it important to the story, scene, or characters? No! All it did was leave a foul taste in my mouth for no reason.

Still for as much as I've said what didn't work Squid does have some good things going for it. I'd like to thank the whole crew for making a film about people and human relationships in a time when so many movies seem to be about nothing more then eye candy. Also big props to all the actors for fine performances.

Squid and the Whale is a much stronger film then most, which is why I was so disappointed that it couldn't rise above it's problems to be something truly special.

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14 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Boring, predictable, and just crass.

1/10
Author: from United States
10 November 2007

*** This review may contain 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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21 out of 32 people found the following review useful:

"The Squid and the Whale" may leave you in need of therapy

2/10
Author: bscowler from Seattle, WA
28 January 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Screenwriter and director Noah Baumbach's tale of his incredibly dysfunctional family could easily have been re-named "The Addams Family - 1986". The film recounts his ugly childhood with his younger brother, his writer-father and aspiring writer-mother living in Park Slope, Brooklyn in 1986. His father Bernard, played revoltingly well by Jeff Daniels, has absolutely no concept of what's going on outside of his own world as he spews obscenities and dwells on his past as a respected writer; of course now no one wants anything to do with his writing so he teaches English instead (Gee, haven't we see that a few hundred times in films?)Bernard's wife Joan, played by a mousy Laury Linney, decide that after many years of marriage that divorce is the best option; which seems odd considering that they have nothing good to say about each other and that Joan has had affairs with at least four different men during their marriage. Why they don't continue with this nightmarish marriage isn't explained; there isn't a catalyst for this decision. Once the separation occurs and Bernard relocates several blocks away to a house of lesser amenities the film shifts focus to the effect the separation has on the two children; Walt and Frank Berkman. Walt, played by a brow-furrowed Jesse Eisenberg, idolizes his father and models his view of the world after Bernard's twisted vision. The majority of observations from Walt's mouth are direct quotes from his father, yet instead of revealing the depth of admiration Walt has for his father these comments simply show Walt as being shallow and pathetic. We wait for Walt to develop a mind of his own but sadly that never happens. Frank, played mincingly by Owen Kline, steals the film as the repulsive chronic masturbator who leaves his calling card on any non-human surface. At one point Joan and Bernard get their child custody duties mixed up and accidentally leave Frank alone for three days. Frank spends the time drinking Scotch, masturbating to his mom's underwear, and passing out on the bathroom floor. The next scene is Joan and Bernard being confronted by the school counselor. What happened for the rest of Frank's long weekend? A nine year old boy left alone with hard liquor and a Oedipal complex is a film in itself, but we aren't allowed to witness this, or a scene where the parents find Frank near death from alcohol poisoning (assuming that could have easily happened) lying in a pile of his mother's panties. The rest of the film is filled with Walt's blatant plagiarism, a non-stop stream of offensive cursing, arguments, premature ejaculation, Bernard allowing his dinner guests at restaurants to only order half-orders because he's so cheap, unbelievable therapy sessions, Bernard trying to force his female student and border to perform oral sex only to be interrupted by his son, and a medical emergency that is offered as redemption but fails. Contrary to reviews I've read, there is nothing charming, endearing, funny, or clever about this film. It truly boggles my mind that most critics enjoyed this film. The only reason I can conjure is that most of these critics were raised in a family as hellish as this one so it's like spending time with old, heavily medicated friends. If this film's final scene was of the four Berkman's going for a hot air balloon ride over the Catskills, and the balloon crashing in flames into the mountains with no survivors, then I just might have walked out of the theater with a smile on my face. As it is, this a slice of American ugliness that no one should have to endure.

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10 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

A major disappointment

5/10
Author: Vash2001 from Arizona, USA
27 January 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I heard this movie was an Oscar contender and had received rave reviews from critics. I am among the few that found it totally tasteless. The topic was good- divorce and its effect on a family. The acting was stellar by all 4 main characters. However, the foul language by just about every character, in nearly every scene, and some very offensive actions were too much for me.

There was humor in the movie, and some of it was even good but it was often contaminated with the offensive language. I am not puritanical; I can handle four letter words but they should not dominate the dialog the way it did in this movie.

Inspite of that, the movie held my interest until it came to a crashing end.

SPOILERS ahead..............

What really disappointed me was the ending. It was too abrupt, too vague, and basically it was not like an ending. It is OK to have an open ended 'ending', that is subject to interpretation, but it needs to flow better. This one did not. I had to wait until 90 percent of the movie was over to hear 'The squid and the whale' and shortly after that the movie ended, with these two entities in the museum.

Overall, a bid disappointment. I have no problem with Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney getting Oscar nominations (if they do); they deserve them, but the movie as a whole does not work. JMHO.

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18 out of 29 people found the following review useful:

Psychological War of the Roses

8/10
Author: nycritic
8 February 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

When husband and wife decide to split, the only ones who get hurt are the children, and even though Joan and Bernard Berkman are in the center of their nasty divorce, their two sons -- Frank and Walt -- are the ones going through the trauma. Noah Baumbach wrote and directed this insightful, biting story of a family deadlocked in its inner battles based on his own life experiences and the result is bittersweet.

Bernard claims to have been an influential author of novels who has fallen on hard times. Frank idolizes him and has the same clipped, insolent tones as if he were talking to an admiring audience. Bernard openly attacks his wife Joan as if it were a requisite for their marriage to exist and Frank decides he too can't stand her. On the other hand, Joan, once Bernard casually reveals her affair with a neighbor, is coming into her own as a writer and as selfish as she may seem at times, she's the better person in the marriage. Walt, the youngest son, tilts towards her but is going through his own inner changes and is expressing it through masturbation -- especially on library books and his mother's lingerie.

After the Berkman's separate, Bernard and the boys move into the new house -- a rickety place within the vicinity -- and Joan initiates her life with Ivan, Walt's tennis tutor. A quadrangle and a triangle of sorts develops when Bernard rents a room to one of his female students, Lili, and begins a tentative affair with her. Frank, who is going out with a girl he seems embarrassed to be seen with, also pines and almost succeeds in seducing Lili. His father even encourages it. Events involving Bernard's and Joan's war eventually lead to a nasty head which will make Frank take a decision about himself.

What makes THE SQUID AND THE WHALE such a great little film is how natural it seems at all turns and how slice of life it is. I kept getting references from French New Wave all over the place. Baumbach writes his characters like real people at all times. Bernard's relationship with his sons is real. Look at when he and Walt curse over losing a table tennis match in almost exact verbal intonations, or when both he and Frank lock themselves in their elitist world and chatter about Kafka, how Bernard has decided he was once a brilliant writer which may or not be true, and how "A Tale of Two Cities" was a lesser Dickens as if reading it meant getting an eye infection. Frank, in imitating his father's worst traits, when it is discovered that a song he'd written was in fact a song by Pink Floyd and in a Ted Bundy style argues that "it was as if he had written it so it was his by appropriation" exposes him for the empty snob he is on the inside. Joan, while a little unsympathetic here and there, is a real human and one who maintains her composure when its clear her writing career is on the rise even if her family is about to implode. When she propitiates the demise of her family it's at first seen as an act of selfish abandonment, but one look at Bernard and his abrasive, self-obsessed, hurtful personality and all is explained. Now, Walt has a more internal character development despite some verbal outbursts at the beginning of the movie. Once the family is divided and he is left increasingly alone, his psyche begins delving into his own sexual awakening which under the detached music of Tangerine Dream is seen as something he himself doesn't understand. It's clear he's more tolerant of the two brothers and able to accept Ivan -- an much better guy as his mother's new guy.

There's also an interesting subtext involving the film BLUE VELVET that may or nor may be intentional. While Frank invites his father to see SHORT CIRCUIT, his father arrogantly puts that film down (for being commercial) and decides they will see BLUE VELVET. The climactic scene where the main characters converge at the Williams' household seems to open a door to Frank's sexual fascination with brunettes and fuses his progressive revulsion of Sophie, a dead ringer for Laura Dern. The appearance of the dark-haired Lili increases this -- she holds within a similar mystique that lures Frank and leads him to push Sophie away in a painful scene.

THE SQUID AND THE WHALE is a sharp domestic drama about bitter people caught within their own patterns of behavior and it lingers on after its abrupt but symbolic ending. Even with Walt's forays into bizarre behavior, which is not as disturbing as a part of a boy's growth, it's Frank -- Noah Baumbach's apparent alter-ego -- who has the moment of clarity to see things as they really are and not be a figment of his father's poison. The moment he realizes he has been a pawn in a needless war between Bernard and Bernard -- not Bernard and Joan as initially depicted, he does what anyone would have done: run and let his feet and instinct take him to the truth.

And as is the case with these kinds of movies, all of the performances are on-target. Laura Linney continues on her winning streak of textured, modern women. Jeff Daniels made me feel like I was in the presence of a real jerk who could have a moment of sympathy but chose to remain locked in his delusions, and that takes guts. Ditto of Jesse Eisenberg who at times reminded me of Ted Bundy. Anna Paquin and William Baldwin fill out believable people with their minimal scenes and Owen Kline made me think of an adult trapped in a kid's body. Overall, this is a near-perfect film from start to finish.

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29 out of 51 people found the following review useful:

Title is explained in the film

10/10
Author: spooly_montana from United States
11 April 2006

What could the film THE SQUID AND THE WHALE be about? Is it an animated tale of two amphibians? An adventure? Certainly boasting an odd name, this movie is about a Brooklyn family in 1986, which is split through divorce. Their two sons are left in the middle, going back and forth in the joint custody agreed upon. Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney play the parents, both writers, and they paint their characters skillfully, with genuine performances. He claims to have once been a great novelist, and she is now a successful author on her own. The sons work out their own confusion in their dealings with girls they like. The two actors playing the sons are also very convincing. One of them is Kevin Kline's real life son, Owen. If you have been in a family that has experienced divorce, this will touch a nerve. A very accessible character study, exploring the complexities and inner workings of a broken family. We are privileged to see behind closed doors and see an authentic portrait. Full of humor and poignant moments, rated R.

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15 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

So horrible.

1/10
Author: Marina from United States
18 June 2007

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 make this film feel like a student film. A BAD 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.

This film was a disappointment.

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9 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Brilliant and Awkward and Everything in Between

8/10
Author: thewalrus8 from Canada
17 September 2006

Not being a child from a product of divorce, after seeing this movie I can appreciate the push and pull that manifests from divorce. Now, I am positive that not all broken homes are this broken, but Noah Baumbauch creates an environment that makes you squirm and want to cry all at the same time. All of the performances are near perfection and are executed with utmost conviction. I find that Jeff Daniels is one of those actors who get better with every movie he does. He is completely unlikeable in this movie yet you feel for him and you want him to get it together. Very few actors can play a prick and yet you are rooting for him and there are a few points in the film where you even buy into his bullshit as much as his oldest son (played by Jesse Eisenberg) does. The Squid and The Whale is not the most uplifting of fare, but it is a must view for anybody who appreciates film, not movies, film.

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33 out of 61 people found the following review useful:

Tortuous and unpleasant entertainment

1/10
Author: acricketer from United States
12 March 2006

This is an awful film. It seems that the more pointless, introverted ( there is nothing for the audience here )and desolate a movie, the more its applauded. "If you don't get it darling, you don't understand art" What is entertaining about a bunch of very unhappy, unpleasant people being unhappy and unpleasant to each other? Clearly it has struck a chord with the intellectual crowd who recognize the types in themselves or others they know. Its 'a.. look, aren't I clever" movie, and "I must be clever to get people to pay to see this and say nice things about it (morons!)" It is self seeking and self indulgent. The acting is good. The folks are caricatures that make you despair for hope, goodness and love of your fellow man. If life is like this film portrays, pray for an alternative.

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