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The Squid and the Whale (Special Edition)

3.6 out of 5 stars 196 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

In his third feature, director Noah Baumbach scores a triumph with an autobiographical coming-of-age story about a teenager whose writer-parents are divorcing. The father (Jeff Daniels) and mother (Laura Linney) duke it out in half-civilized, half-savage fashion, while their two sons adapt in different ways, shifting allegiances between parents. The film is squirmy-funny and nakedly honest about the rationalizations and compensatory snobbisms of artistic failure as well as the conflicted desires of adolescents for sex and status. In detailing bohemian-bourgeois life in brownstone Brooklyn, Baumbach is spot on. Everyone proceeds from good intentions and acts rather badly, in spite or because of their manifest intelligence. Fulfilling the best traditions of the American independent film, this quirky, wisely written feature explores the gulf between sexes, generations, art and commerce, Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Special Features

  • Commentary by director Noah Baumbach
  • Behind-the-scenes featurette
  • A conversation with director Noah Baumbach and film critic Philip Lopate
  • Sundance Film Festival, Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award, 2005
  • Sundance Film Festival ,  Director's Award, 2005

Product Details

  • Actors: Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Jesse Eisenberg
  • Directors: Noah Baumbach
  • Producers: Wes Anderson, Charlie Corwin, Clara Markowicz, Peter Newman
  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, NTSC, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: French, English
  • Dubbed: French
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
    Some Region 1 DVDs may contain Regional Coding Enhancement (RCE). Some, but not all, of our international customers have had problems playing these enhanced discs on what are called "region-free" DVD players. For more information on RCE, click .
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: March 21, 2006
  • Run Time: 81 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (196 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000CS464G
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #20,363 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Squid and the Whale (Special Edition)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

One of the commercial reviews for this film said that it was the performance of his career for Jeff Daniels and I would have to agree. As Bernard Berkman, a formerly successful and renowned writer--but now having serious trouble with his career--Daniels nails it perfectly. He's arrogant, pompous--a real prig. He blames everyone (mostly his wife) for the collapse of his marriage but himself. His older son, Walt, played in an astonishingly good performance by Jesse Eisenberg, at first sides with his dad, then realizes how callous his father really is.

At the same time, his mother--Laura Linney in another great performance (here's an actress who can do no wrong; there isn't one film she's in where she turns in a bad performance)--is not only besting her husband in the literary game (she receives a notice from a major publisher of their forthcoming publication of her first novel), but also has her husband reveal her former four-year affair with the father of one of Walt's classmates and is currently taking up with Ivan, the smug, smarmy but nevertheless relatively good-hearted (and younger) tennis instructor played by William Baldwin, Alec's brother.

So neither parent is perfect. Not by a long shot. What'a a teenager to do? Not only Walt, but Frank, Walt's younger brother, is also dramatically impacted by this rancorous marital discord, in bizarre ways that should be seen to be believed. Both boys act out their enormous frustration, rage, and general malaise in ways that relate directly to sexual/relationship dysfunction, mirroring their parents' problems.
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The Squid and the Whale, written and directed by Noah Baumbach, is an unusually realistic, well-acted and honest film about a dysfunctional Brooklyn family in the 1980s. The film is alternately comical and serious, yet unlike most movies of this genre, it neither sentimentalizes nor demonizes any of its characters, no matter how absurd or even despicable their behavior may be. One interesting quality about this partly autobiographical film is the convincing way it portrays the values and lifestyles of a particular type of intellectual middle class family. What will disturb and even shock some viewers is the casual way these quasi-bohemian folks raise --or barely raise-- their children. Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney both give superb performances as Bernard and Joan, parents who in many ways seem more like older siblings to their children. There is an almost total absence of the usual parenting concerns --these kids curse, consume alcohol and explore their sexuality with no lectures or moral condemnation from their parents. The reason for this is twofold. Firstly, these are people who pride themselves on their sophistication and aesthetic approach to life, so they consider themselves above bourgeois morality. Secondly, they are simply too distracted with their petty conflicts (mainly with each other) to notice much of what their children are up to, aside from how it directly impacts them. The children, Walt and Frank (Jesse Eisenberg and Owen Kline, who also give great performances) are somewhat more disturbed than average adolescents. The movie begins with the family playing a doubles tennis game, with Bernard and Walt playing against Joan and Frank. This mirrors the loyalties that develop as the parents separate and try to work the kinks out of an awkward joint custody arrangement.Read more ›
Comment 25 of 28 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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The Squid and the Whale is one of the more poetic and well conceived movies I have seen in a while. The brilliant intertwining of the different character's stories is well done and gives an overall "realistic" atmosphere that seems so hard to achieve in film (including documentaries). The fluid transitions of humor, jealousy, fantasy, forgiveness, and growth flesh out the story as a truly classic tragic comedy.

Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney both do an amazing job of bringing out all the irony and contradictions of their characters. Egocentric to the point of ridiculousness and desperately needing approval; they both push and pull at each-other and their children creating a very powerful ebb and flow of humor, hope and failure. Because of this breakdown the children reflect, deny, and attempt to adjust to their parents anguish sometimes with painful results.

The soundtrack is quirky and always fits in nicely with the story. There's a good mix of well know musicians like Lou Reed and Pink Floyd with top notch but relatively unknown musicians like Pentangle's Bert Jansch or The Feelies. I like that the movie takes place in the early 80's but the filmmaker didn't go with obvious choices or with music just from that time.

What really shines the most in this movie is the writing. There are so many well expressed dimensions about the complications of relationships, and so many hidden gems of humor and insight that it provokes thoughtfulness and laughter (sometimes at the same time). Brilliant.
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Topic From this Discussion
"Don't be difficult"
I agree that the negative reviews are most likely from people who do not feel comfortable with the dark side of human behavior. But just because you don't approve of someone's actions, it won't make them go away. Maybe those who are not offended by this type of approach are more realistic?
Jun 7, 2008 by Len C. Kiel |  See all 2 posts
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