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61 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blows No Good
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...
Published on 29 July 2006 by John Self

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Light Entertainment
I found this film quite deep and at points, quite uncomfortable watching. I felt it painted a real picture of what the two boys went through during their parents divorce from their own perspective more than focusing on the parent's own issues with one another. Both boys seem seriously affected by their parents separation and living different lives in different homes...
Published on 1 Feb 2008 by Jean La Ranthon


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61 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blows No Good, 29 July 2006
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This review is from: The Squid And The Whale [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
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. It is bitterly brilliant, painfully funny, and with an almost non-stop series of great lines and scenes, mostly involving the self-involved Berkman Sr. One reviewer on imdb.com, who knew Jonathan Baumbach, the basis for Bernard Berkman, says that Daniels "amazingly, underplays the actual father."

Bernard: Joan, let me ask you something. All that work I did at the end of our marriage, making dinners, cleaning up, being more attentive. It never was going to make a difference, was it? You were leaving no matter what...

Joan: You never made a dinner.

Bernard: I made burgers that time you had pneumonia.

And the film is beautifully paced, too, with so many scenes cut short where other films would have played through until they became tiring or over-obvious. As a result, there is not a single boring moment in the entire film, which in fact comes in at well under 90 minutes.

It's quietly moving too, particularly in the central scene where son Walt explains to the psychotherapist that the only happy memory he can recall was when he was six years old, and doesn't involve his father. It also explains the title of the film, which comes back in the neat coda.

A vital film, and essential viewing.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Light Entertainment, 1 Feb 2008
By 
Jean La Ranthon (Buckinghamshire, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Squid And The Whale [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
I found this film quite deep and at points, quite uncomfortable watching. I felt it painted a real picture of what the two boys went through during their parents divorce from their own perspective more than focusing on the parent's own issues with one another. Both boys seem seriously affected by their parents separation and living different lives in different homes. You really feel for them as they go through the pains of finding out for themselves what to believe in and how to deal with their situation and get some perspective despite their opinionated, narrow minded Father. A good, interesting film. Very different and not what you'd call light entertainment.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A thoughful film for grown-ups, 8 Sep 2006
By 
Bluebell (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: The Squid And The Whale [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
Sometimes painful often very funny I enjoyed this film with its witty dialogue and satirizing of academic pretensions about English literature criticism. So many US films are geared to the teen market, but this was a film for people who have experienced some of the vicissitudes of relationships and family life. The characters were sympathetically portrayed. Nothing was black and white: every character had good and bad points-just like real-life iteractions between people. All the acting was excellent, especially the two sons.
I wouldn't rate this as one of the greatest films ever made, but it was very well worth buying, and viewing again.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars hopeful tragedy, 30 Aug 2011
By 
rob crawford "Rob Crawford" (Balmette Talloires, France) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
While there has been no divorce in my larger family (knock on wood!), I see it around me so much that it is often on my mind. It has shattered the lives of several of my closest friends in truly fightening ways. I think this is one of the better dramas I have seen on it, painful and unresolved, with great empathy for all the characters and in the end uplifting if heavy: they all move on in their owns ways, if wounded.

The children are the emotional core of the film, struggling the most openly while their parents pursue their own paths more or less selfishly. You can believe the pain in the children's eyes and though their acts, in fill adolescence and awakening sexuality. The mother, who could not go on the way it was, is indulging her need for a kind of simple lover, disastrously choosing her son's tennis teacher. Even worse, the father cannot look into himself, and acts out the bad guy as he dates a woman his older son has a crush on while the son is mistreating a very nice girl his age. It is all agonisingly sad to watch, and all the introspection that can lead to growing out of it is under the surface in ways that the viewer must interpret it. That makes this a superb indie film in this way, up there with "We Don't Live Here Anymore." Really beautiful.

If I had any criticism, it is that he film begs the viewer to judge the parents a bit too much. Still, even if he is a twit, the father's pain makes him pretty sympathetic. The mother is about to spread her wings and grow professionally, but you wonder about her personally.

Warmly recommended.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I made burgers that time you had pneumonia.", 22 April 2006
By 
Kona (Emerald City) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
Bernard (Jeff Daniels) was once a successful novelist; now he's a stuffy, patronizing college professor. His wife Joan (Laura Linney) has been learning to write and has just published her first novel. And she's been having multiple love affairs for years. The two separate and the battle over the kids begins. Big brother Walt idolizes his father and hates his mother, but mostly just wants a girlfriend. 12-year old Frank sides with Mom and has some major problems of his own.

This quirky little film is definitely not the "comedy" it claims to be. It is drama all the way; a thought-provoking and sobering look at divorce. The four leads are uniformly brilliant. Jeff Daniels plays against type as a pompous windbag who likes to dominate people by being smarter than they are. Linney is also excellent playing an evolving wife and mother. The boys who play the sons really steal the show. They both show a lot of depth and maturity in very challenging roles (that are the reason for the R rating). The movie was filmed on location in Brooklyn and Manhattan and has a very real, urban feel to it. The final scene in the Natural History Museum is the perfect ending to a very satisfying movie.
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Squid with teeth..., 2 July 2006
This review is from: The Squid And The Whale [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
Yes indeed this squid really leaves its mark! This is one of the really rare cases where I fully agree with all those frothy critics who drooled over this jewel of a film. Whilst the interview on the extras part of this dvd might prompt you to doubt the coherence of the writer/director Noah Baumbach, don't be in any doubt - this is a real miniature masterpiece.

Whether you're into psychology or not, this puts you right in the centre of this family and all its problems, which are are too common today (as in the '80s, when the story takes place). There are so many special moments, that it would be misleading to select any one for mention.

Equally impossible would be to select any one person for special mention among the crew. All the actors are incredibly convincing, as is the script etc.

This is a MEMORABLE WORK OF ART.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Squid and the Whale, 21 Jun 2012
This review is from: The Squid And The Whale [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
Before Zuckerberg...There was Eisenberg...

Not often can a film be so bitter and so funny. The Squid and the Whale tells the story of two arrogant and stubborn parents who split their family right down the middle. The father Bernard Buckham (Daniels) is the former great now on a steady decline whilst his wife Joan (Linney) is a rising literary star. The tensions and dynamics and beautifully crafted. It is of little wonder why Noah Baumbach received an Academy Award for best original screenplay.
Like many, my parents are divorced and like many I can remember it happening. It wasn't quite like depicted in the film but it is still a matter I can relate to. The characters are so perfectly human in all their flaws and traits that it is impossible not to impart affection toward them.
Jeff Daniels is one of a fast growing list of comic actors that have proven they can also act very well in a traditional manner on screen. His portrayal of the bitter father, staunch in his belief but ultimately a man who contradicts himself comes across very well.
I feel however one of my favourite screen presences, Laura Linney, steals the show whenever the camera is near her. As Joan she gives us the underlying problems in the marriage and truths that Bernard would rather not face the reality of. In an instant she can put the man in his place.
The story however is really about the sons; Walt (Eisenberg) and Frank (Kline) who play off each other superbly. We are now familiar with Eisenberg's style, his awkward looks and almost monotone low key voice and this is where it all started. Walt takes after his father, and Frank takes more after his mother and the two become split into factions. Kline is hilarious as the experimental twelve year old, drinking whiskey, throwing up and masterbating into socks.
Eisenberg is also amusing if only for his awkwardness and perfection of the nerdy character.
The entire film is shot on Super 16mm using a handheld camera and coupled with the soundtrack gives the feature a charmingly 1980s feel. This film really is a joy, it is bitter, tragic, sweet and has moments of genuine comedy. The acting is of a high standard and the screenplay is just awesome. If you like heartwarming cinema with true acting and true writing then don't hesitate to add this to your wish list.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Superb look at a civilised break up., 4 July 2010
By 
Ernie (Kent) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Squid And The Whale [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
I loved every minute of 'The Squid And The Whale', the idea of creating a film around a family in which both parents are liberal minded intellectuals, who make the decision the break up in a very adult and civilised manner was very smart. And what adds to the film is the fact that the more the parents attempt to be civilised, the more unreasonable and destructive they actually become. And while the film is labelled as a comedy, it is far more subtle and dark than laugh out loud comedy, so if you're expecting laughs you're going to be disappointed, but of you enjoy small character based films them this is well worth a look.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The new difining divorce movie, 21 Sep 2007
By 
Nicolai Würtz Knudsen (Copenhagen, Denmark) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Squid And The Whale [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
Sometimes it just takes an excellent story to make an excellent movie. Noah Baumbach has done it with "The Squid & the Whale". Set in 1986 in Brooklyn, two young boys witness their parents destroying their family in a very tough divorce. The youngest son takes his mothers party, while the older brother sympathizes with his father. Being intellectuals the parents trys to make things work in a mature way, but the film really lives up to the tag line "Joint Custody Sucks".

Kramer Vs. Kramer with Dustin Hoffmann and Meryll Streep used to be THE divorce movie. Now it has met a very strong contender for the title. I can strongly recommend this movie for as a very intense movie experience dealing brilliantly with all the hurting feelings a divorce creates.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Painful, sad and funny, 6 Jan 2008
By 
William Cohen (London) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Squid And The Whale [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
I went to school in Oxford in the 1980s. Highly-cultured Brooklyn intellectual families seem to have a lot in common with North Oxford dons, so the film did feel familiar. From the opening scene on the tennis court, the misery of being in a dysfunctional family is subtly and slowly revealed.

The way kids idolise their parents is very convincing, and the director shows how the opinions and moral judgement of the parents is reflected in the attitudes of the children.

This film hurts. I actually found the ending very satisfying. The son gets an insight into the true nature of his father, and in fact that is the moment he crosses into being an adult himself.
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The Squid And The Whale [DVD] [2006]
The Squid And The Whale [DVD] [2006] by Noah Baumbach (DVD - 2006)
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