The Squid and the Whale
The Squid and the Whale is a 2005 American independent arthouse drama film written and directed by Noah Baumbach and produced by Wes Anderson. It tells the semi-autobiographical story of two boys in Brooklyn dealing with their parents' divorce in 1986. The film is named after the giant squid and sperm whale diorama housed at the American Museum of Natural History, which is seen in the film. The film was shot on Super 16mm, mostly using a handheld camera.
|The Squid and the Whale|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Noah Baumbach|
|Produced by||Wes Anderson|
|Written by||Noah Baumbach|
|Music by||Britta Phillips|
|Cinematography||Robert D. Yeoman|
|Edited by||Tim Streeto|
|Distributed by||Samuel Goldwyn Films|
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
|Box office||$11.2 million|
At the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, the film won awards for best dramatic direction and screenwriting, and was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize. Baumbach later received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay. The film received six Independent Spirit Award nominations and three Golden Globe nominations. The New York Film Critics Circle, Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the National Board of Review voted its screenplay the year's best.
Bernard Berkman is an arrogant, once-promising novelist whose career has gone into a slow decline as he spends more time teaching and less time writing. His unfaithful wife, Joan, has recently begun publishing her own work to widespread acclaim, which only increases the growing tension between them. One day, Bernard and Joan tell their two sons, 16-year-old Walt and 12-year-old Frank, that they are separating, with Bernard renting a house on the other side of Prospect Park from their home in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
As the parents set up a schedule for spending time with their children, Walt and Frank can hardly imagine that things could get more combative between their parents. They do, however, as Joan begins dating Ivan, Frank's tennis instructor, and Bernard starts sharing his new house with Lili, one of his students. Meanwhile, the two boys begin taking sides in the battle between their parents, with Frank siding with his mother and Walt with his father. Walt idolizes his father which causes him to blame his mother and emulate his father.
Along with the trouble both boys exhibit verbally with their parents, they also show internal struggles and very different ways of handling the stress of their parents' divorce. Walt's most obvious cry for help is when he performs and claims to have written "Hey You" by Pink Floyd at his school's talent show. After Walt wins first place and receives praise from his family and friends, his school realizes that he did not write the song. At this point, the school calls Bernard and Joan in to discuss Walt. They all decide that Walt should see the school psychologist. Meanwhile, Frank exhibits his own internal turmoil by repeatedly masturbating at school. He also begins to drink beer and speak in a way that emulates Ivan's mannerisms.
At the meeting with the psychologist, Walt finally starts to see things more objectively, without the taint of his father's opinions. He realizes that he had been mirroring his father when he was mistreating a girl he had been dating named Sophie, who breaks things off with him when she finally gets fed up with his narcissism. The psychologist asks Walt about his memories. His fondest memory is when his mother would take him to see the giant squid and whale exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History; the exhibit scared him as a small boy so he would look at it through his fingers whenever they went by the exhibit at the museum. Then, when he and his mother would return home, they would discuss what they saw. He would have her describe the squid and the whale exhibit in detail and it would still be a little scary, but not so scary. It becomes clear to Walt that his father was never really present, and that his mother was the one whom he remembers caring for him.
After a heated argument between Bernard and Joan over custody and whether Joan would take him back, Bernard collapses on the street outside their home and is taken to the hospital. Bernard asks for Walt to stay by his side, but Walt instead runs to the Natural History Museum. The film ends with him standing in front of the exhibit, finally able to look at it.
- Jeff Daniels as Bernard Berkman; a selfish and arrogant writer.
- Laura Linney as Joan Berkman; a writer and unfaithful ex-wife.
- Jesse Eisenberg as Walt Berkman
- Owen Kline as Frank Berkman
- Anna Paquin as Lili
- William Baldwin as Ivan
- Halley Feiffer as Sophie Greenberg
- Ken Leung as School Therapist
- David Benger as Carl
- Adam Rose as Otto
- Peter Newman as Mr. Greenberg
- Peggy Gormley as Mrs. Greenberg
- Greta Kline as Greta Greenberg
- Maryann Plunkett as Ms. Lemon
- Alexandra Daddario as Pretty Girl
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 92% approval rating, based on 154 reviews, with an average rating of 7.92/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "This is a piercingly honest, acidly witty look at divorce and its impact on a family." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 82 out of 100, based on 37 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".
On an episode of Ebert & Roeper, both critics praised the film and gave it a "two thumbs up" rating. Premiere critic Glenn Kenny praised the film, writing, "It's a rare film that can be convincingly tender, bitterly funny, and ruthlessly cutting over the course of fewer than 90 minutes. The Squid and the Whale not only manages this, it also contains moments that sock you with all three qualities at the same time." Time critic Richard Corliss wrote, "The Squid and the Whale is domestic tragedy recollected as comedy: a film whose catalog of deceits and embarrassments, and of love pratfalling over itself, makes it as (excruciatingly) painful as it is (exhilaratingly) funny."
Awards and nominations
The film was released on DVD on March 21, 2006 by Sony Pictures. The DVD includes a 45-minute commentary with director Noah Baumbach, another 40-minute commentary with Baumbach and Phillip Lopate, cast interviews, and trailers. In 2013 Mill Creek Entertainment released the film for the first time on Blu-ray in a 2 pack set with Running with Scissors. All extras were dropped for the Blu-ray release.
The Criterion Collection re-released the film on DVD and Blu-ray on November 22, 2016 which included new interviews with Baumbach and actors Jeff Daniels, Jesse Eisenberg, Owen Kline and Laura Linney; a new conversation about the score and other music in the film between Baumbach and composers Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips; a 2005 documentary titled Behind The Squid and the Whale; audition footage; and the original trailers.
The soundtrack features two songs by Loudon Wainwright III and one by Kate & Anna McGarrigle. It reuses Tangerine Dream's "Love on a Real Train", from Risky Business, for the scenes of Frank's sexual awakenings. Other contemporary popular music is played in the background of scenes, such as The Cars' "Drive" and Bryan Adams' "Run to You". "Figure Eight", from Schoolhouse Rock, is used as both an instrumental and a vocal. Pink Floyd's "Hey You" is heard several times in the movie, since it plays a role in the plot and is cited by Walt as capturing his emotional state. Both the original version, and diegetic performances by Jesse Eisenberg and Owen Kline, are used. Baumbach originally wanted to use The Who's "Behind Blue Eyes" instead but he could not secure the rights.
- Track listing
- "Park Slope" – Britta Phillips & Dean Wareham
- "Courting Blues" – Bert Jansch
- "Holland Tunnel" – John Phillips
- "Lullaby" – Loudon Wainwright III
- "Heart Like a Wheel" – Kate & Anna McGarrigle
- "The Bright New Year" – Bert Jansch
- "Drive" – The Cars
- "Let's Go" – The Feelies
- "Figure Eight" – Blossom Dearie
- "Come Sing Me a Happy Song to Prove We All Can Get Along the Lumpy, Bumpy, Long & Dusty Road" – Bert Jansch
- "Hey You " – Pink Floyd (Performed by Dean Wareham)
- "Family Conference" – Britta Phillips & Dean Wareham
- "Street Hassle" – Lou Reed
- "The Swimming Song" – Loudon Wainwright III
- "Love on a Real Train" – Tangerine Dream
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- Squid and the Whale, The (2005): Reviews
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