The Squid and the Whale (2005)

squid and the whale poster 2005 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 8/10

Great cast and different story

An open for interpretation story isn't for everyone

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Squid and the Whale

Studio:  Sony Pictures

Genre(s):  Drama/Comedy

Release Date(s):  January 23, 2005 (Sundance Film Festival)/October 5, 2005 (US)

MPAA Rating:  R

squid and the whale divorce talk jeff daniels laura linney jesse eisenberg owen kline

So pick a side…NOW!

Bernard Berkman (Jeff Daniels) is a once critically acclaimed writer who is no longer desired by publishers and his wife Joan (Laura Linney) is an up-and-coming writer who is close to getting her first book published.  When their marriage reaches its end, their children Walt (Jesse Eisenberg) and Frank (Owen Kline) find themselves caught between their two feuding parents and having to pick sides.  Walt sides with his father  who has moved out and in to a home where he boards a student (Anna Paquin) while Frank sides with his mother who is having an affair with her tennis instructor Ivan (William Baldwin).  Picking sides is only the beginning as Walt and Frank begin to see the truth of their parents’ relationship.

Written and directed by Noah Baumbach, The Squid and the Whale is a semi-biographical dramatic dark comedy.  The movie was produced by Wes Anderson who was originally signed up to direct and passed on the project since it was more emotionally tied to Baumbach.  The movie was released to critical acclaim and went on to be nominated for multiple awards including an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #845).

squid and the whale pink floyd hey you jesse eisenberg

What is this “Pink Floyd” you speak of…I know not of this “band” (nor does anyone in the audience)

Wes Anderson is a frequent collaborator with Baumbach, and I sought out The Squid and the Whale as a result.  The movie is a nice venture that has a lot of same qualities of a Wes Anderson film but is less surreal and more drama based.  Though the characters are quirky and unrealistic, there is a sense of realism that is lacking in Wes Anderson films.

The story gives few answers.  It feels like a real snippet of the lives of the characters.  There is little beginning or end to the film.  It does feel that the character has a course of development, but it also leaves the viewer without resolving many of the characters issues in the film.  It is interesting to see how Frank and Walt bond and change their relationships as they progress through the film.

Jeff Daniels does a great job.  Bill Murray dropped out of the film to make Broken Flowers, and Daniels stepped in.  He plays a great snob who doesn’t have a lot to be snobby about.  Linney also is good in that she (like Daniels) isn’t entirely sympathetic either.  Both parents are flawed, and both parents also have qualities that are good.  Eisenberg shows some early skills in the movie, and Kline has a tough job as the less defined and more troubled brother.  Anna Paquin has a small role in the film as Daniels’ student (which is ironic since she played his daughter in Fly Away Home), and William Baldwin plays the rather simple tennis pro Ivan.

squid and the whale ending museum of natural history new york


The movie is set in the ’80s but doesn’t make it the focus of the film like many films.  It is a nice looking film and makes great use out of some of the music.  A major plot point however with Walt reciting Pink Floyd’s “Hey You” and trying to pass it off as his own doesn’t seem very realistic in this ’80s setting with very few people knowing it…even the parents I think would know it.

The Squid and the Whale is a different type of drama that is much less flesh out than some dramas.  The movie feels real despite the extreme characters that are somewhat difficult to associate with on the outside.  Not many people have had lives like Walt and Frank but there is something touching and universal about the struggles they are going through.  The movie easily could be listed as a “quirky family” drama, but because there are multiple layers to the characters, it feels like more, it does have more depth.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

Leave A Response