Universal acclaim - based on 37 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 35 out of 37
  2. Negative: 0 out of 37
  1. Steering clear of phony melodrama and indie pretense, Baumbach captures a crisis in one family's life that, though it shakes the foundation, leaves all four Berkmans drifting toward highs and lows unknown, each of them only dimly aware that, no matter what the movies tell us, we never really come of age.
  2. Reviewed by: Glenn Kenny
    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.
  3. Squid keeps you on your toes, but payoffs will have you smiling - maybe in rueful recognition of the truth - in scene after scene.
  4. 100
    Treacherously funny and wrenchingly sad.
  5. In hovering, The Squid and the Whale becomes its own realistic display of family entropy, as cautionary as it is educational.
  6. Baumbach captures the ways in which children takes sides in a war they can't even begin to comprehend.
  7. Isn't easy to watch, but it's beautifully written and acted, with a sharp eye for the small embarrassments of divorce.
  8. 91
    Bitterly funny about divorce, it's even sharper and more original about intellectuals and their discontent.
  9. Acutely observed, faultlessly acted, graced with piercing emotion and unsparing honesty, it will make you laugh because you can't bear to cry.
  10. Both sharply comical and piercingly sad. Mr. Baumbach surveys the members of the flawed, collapsing Berkman family with sympathy but without mercy, noting their individual and collective failures and imperfections with relentless precision.
  11. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    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.
  12. 90
    A satirical comedy--ruthless and heartbreaking, but a comedy nonetheless. The movie is also about disintegration and the possibility of rebirth. In other words, it’s a small miracle.
  13. It packs a hefty emotional wallop.
  14. 88
    Without jerking tears or reducing the acid content of his wit, Baumbach's humane movie gets under your skin.
  15. 88
    All I know is, it is better to be the whale than the squid. Whales inspire major novels.
  16. A great divorce movie. It's also one of the canniest comedies ever made about a certain kind of literary pretension.
  17. Reviewed by: Kyle Smith
    With its dry wit and all-star household, Baumbach's movie resembles Wes Anderson's "The Royal Tenenbaums" without the heavy whimsy.
  18. Insightful, funny-sad memoir of divorce, intellectual style and emotional rebirth.
  19. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    The young actors' performances are particularly haunting.
  20. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    This is one cinematic novella that stays with you for quite a while.
  21. If the kids give the movie its momentum, its fascination comes from a more static source -- the father.
  22. Daniels gives a career-best performance.
  23. 80
    Baumbach crams an impressive amount of characterization and humor into 82 minutes.
  24. Reviewed by: Adam Smith
    Painful, funny and beautifully acted, by Jeff Daniels particularly, who gives a career-best performance.
  25. 80
    Baumbach weds his verbal gifts to a fresh visual acuity that brings layers of rich detail to a portrait of a family coping, poorly, with self-inflicted change.
  26. 80
    It's an unflinchingly raw and honest look at a family splitting apart, and it seldom strikes an unconvincing or inauthentic note. Though it surveys rocky adolescent emotional terrain from the safe distance of adulthood, The Squid And The Whale still resonates with the sting of a fresh wound.
  27. 80
    Tender, cruel, and very funny, Baumbach's fourth feature turns family history into a sort of urban myth.
  28. This story doesn't just belong to them anymore. This richly observed, sometimes heartbreaking movie has become ours, too.
  29. The implied critique of progressive, bohemian parenting is devastating--wise and nuanced, with the painful hilarity of truth.
  30. An entertaining and perceptive film with one big problem.
  31. 75
    Jeff Daniels, an actor who is often relegated to inoffensive supporting roles, surprises with the power and intensity of his performance.
  32. 70
    Has so much going for it -- including intelligent performances that mesh beautifully, and a keen understanding of how seemingly small moments can rattle the foundations of families -- that you walk away from it feeling it should add up to more.
  33. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    The hole in the film isn't a reflection on Linney's performance. It's as if Baumbach, his hands full of oily whale blubber, didn't want to deal with an exploding sac of squid ink. And who can blame him, really?
  34. Reviewed by: Scott Foundas
    Pic makes up in strong performances and wry observation what it sometimes lacks in narrative drive. Result is a perceptive (and unexpectedly moving) portrait of lives in crisis.
  35. All four of the roles are written with pungency. There is even an implication that the two adults realize the triteness of the situation and that they--the characters, not Baumbach--want to speak from inner sources, not from a script. Baumbach pulls this off with some sting and wit.
  36. 50
    The title refers to a diorama at New York City's American Museum of Natural History that depicts a whale and a giant squid locked in mortal combat.
  37. The absence of any nuance in the father's character bespeaks the filmmaker's unwillingness to trust his audience. Making the movie may have been therapeutic for him, but I can't say the same about watching it.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 284 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 54 out of 91
  2. Negative: 35 out of 91
  1. HeatherW.
    Jan 3, 2006
    I was looking forward to seeing this movie because so many of my favorite critics liked it, but, boy, was I disappointed. The characters border on characture (esp. the father), and all of them (except the younger brother) were pretty unlikeable. Not that I have to like characters to like a movie, but there has to be *something* that draws me in. This just really didn't. Acting was all right, but the writing/story was self-indulgent and annoying. Full Review »
  2. Jun 8, 2012
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  3. Mar 22, 2011
    The mother is totally fake, Jeff Daniels looks like he is not sure if this is supposed to be a comedy or something more serious. What a bore of a movie..I fell asleep after five minutes, so at least I got a good nap out of it. When it is clear from the get go that both parents are headcases, you can be sure that you are in for 90 minutes of agony. It evades me how this flick gets the rave reviews it did. I am going to pick up my video camera this afternoon and shoot random stuff, ask random people random questions, and you can be sure it's going to be a lot more interesting than this... Full Review »