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The Squid And The Whale 2005

4.1 out of 5 stars (43) IMDb 7.4/10

Noah Baumbach writes and directs this off-beat comedy drama, based on his own experiences as a young boy growing up in the 1980s and trying to deal with his parents' divorce. Bernard (Jeff Daniels) is the father of an eccentric Brooklyn family who claims to have been a great novelist in his youth, but who has settled down to a teaching job in middle age.

Starring:
Owen Kline, Jeff Daniels
Runtime:
1 hour, 17 minutes

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Product Details

Genres Drama, Comedy
Director Noah Baumbach
Starring Owen Kline, Jeff Daniels
Supporting actors Laura Linney, Jesse Eisenberg, William Baldwin, David Benger, Anna Paquin, Molly Barton, Bo Berkman, Matthew Kaplan, Simon Kaplan, Matthew Kirsch, Daniella Markowicz, Elizabeth Meriwether, Ben Schrank, Amy Srebnick, Josh Srebnick, Emma Straub, Alan Wilkis, James Hamilton
Studio Sony Pictures International
BBFC rating Suitable for 15 years and over
Purchase rights Stream instantly and download to 2 locations Details
Format Amazon Video (streaming online video and digital download)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
The Squid and the Whale is Noah Baumbach's autobiographical film about his parents' divorce. Beyond that I know nothing of the source material or of Baumbach's life - not even which of the two boys in the film represents him - but you don't need to, of course. And the truth of everything in the film beams through it so clearly that you would be in no doubt, anyway, that it came from real life.

Jeff Daniels gives a quietly barnstorming performance as Bernard (pronounced Ber-NARD) Berkman, a lazily bearded New York writer whose literary career is on the skids. His wife Joan (Laura Linney), meanwhile, has been published in the New Yorker and is about to get some good news about her first novel... Berkman is presented to us in toto in the opening scene, playing tennis with the family, the hilariously bitter competitive dad figure as he takes his son to one side and whispers "Try to get your mother's backhand. It's her weak point."

When the divorce is announced, along with joint custody ("Joint custody blows" - for some reason this has been changed on the UK DVD cover to 'joint custody sucks'), elder son Walt takes dad's side, accusing his mother of breaking up the family. He dates Sophie, a charming but unworldly girl who is taken in by his faux-intellectualism (another inheritance from his father), describing her favourite book as 'minor Fitzgerald,' bluffing a discussion and calling Metamorphosis 'Kafkaesque,' and faking authorship of Pink Floyd songs. Younger son Frank, aged - what? - ten or eleven, takes to masturbating and smearing his semen in public places, and to alcohol.

If all this makes it seem utterly grim, that could not be further from the truth. The film is not (or not only) uplifting in a Richard Yates way, for its honesty in portraying misery.
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Format: DVD
Bernard and Joan are an ordinary middle-class couple, unendearingly played by Daniels and Linney,and their relationship isn't so much on the skids as wrecked. It is immoderate to call such a situation as a marital split as tragic, they are so banal. But what I liked about this film was achieved through the wavering, uncertain situation in which their two boys, Walt and Frank, are placed by their parents' divorce. I found myself thinking, not by accident, that in the 40 years since I was at secondary school the world has turned upside down and, in a sense, we accept this: at my school of 1400 people ONE pair of boys were from a split home, and they were brothers. Now fully half would be in this pair's and these two boys' boat - to Stalin a statistic but it seems to be tragic. This is old-fashioned but I have seen too much 'collateral damage' and it is seen here too. Well acted by all, the important thing is not the unspectacular narrative but the way themes arise, such as the boys' conflicted loyalties, always somehow snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, like encountering famine in the midst of plenty. I sensed we are all living in an unhappy world. No answers in this film - we know there is no magic - but it makes one consider quite what a selfish thing divorce can seem to children, and the terrible price modern life exacts as we encounter misery where once was love and romance and desire. Or so it can seem The shibboleth of choice, of satisfaction. No longer. This quiet drama is well acted and absorbing; the modern world has misplaced something important, it is absent here too. Poignantly.
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Set in the 1980s this is an uncompromising, insightful, brutal, tragic and comedic examination of the consequences of the bitter separation and divorce of a bohemian literary couple living in New York and the effect this has on their two sons. Jeff Daniels’ tour de force performance as the father, a smug, narcissistic, pompous, opinionated college academic writer is almost matched by Laura Linney’s quietly devastating turn as the dissatisfied novelist mother, finally deciding that the marriage has to end. There are parallels here with the 2012 film What Maisie Knew as both sets of parents appear to exhibit a disturbing selfishness, but here the screenplay is altogether more complex and possesses a devastating subtle dark acerbic humour punctuated with throwaway profanities . The confusion, frustration and anger felt by the two boys are exhibited in different ways and in the case of the younger boy by some particularly antisocial adolescent behaviour. However, it is Jesse Eisenberg’s performance as the older boy which is at the core of the film as his attitude towards his individual parents gradually changes as he realises that they are not paragons of virtue, but flawed individuals. Highly recommended.
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I caught up with this film nine years after it was made, it was recommended and I'd enjoyed Noah Baumbach's later When We Were Young.
I might have thought this equally good if it hadn't abruptly ended at what I estimated as 3/4 of the way through the film. It didn't, it really was 80 minutes long, but to someone closely following the story, it seemed as if the director had suddenly cried "Cut. All go home!" just as we might have been approaching some sort of climax or resolution. So we are cut off in limbo, as it were. A pity since there is some fine acting, very good writing, in this tale of what happens to two young sons of about 12 and 17 when their parents divorce.
You are never quite sure if the director is sending up the rather pompous parents, and you are not allowed to really like any of them, but that does not detract from the enjoyment of watching how the so-called 'best intentions' of these liberal parents are actually harming their young sons.
I was really enjoying it, when BANG! The End appeared on the screen. You have been warned.
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