User Score
7.4

Generally favorable reviews- based on 291 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 65 out of 291
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  1. CamiK.
    Jan 14, 2007
    10
    Brilliant, superbly acted, and rivetting throughout.
  2. DeirdreB.
    Jun 20, 2006
    10
    I have watched all the commentaries on this movie, many of the reviews, even listened to the director/writer talking about the movie--and his love of psychology.[***SPOILERS***] Does anybody else GET that this movie is about the effects of pathological narcissism on a family? People who have narcisstic parents go through this nightmare of splitting, improper boundaries, and nighmarish I have watched all the commentaries on this movie, many of the reviews, even listened to the director/writer talking about the movie--and his love of psychology.[***SPOILERS***] Does anybody else GET that this movie is about the effects of pathological narcissism on a family? People who have narcisstic parents go through this nightmare of splitting, improper boundaries, and nighmarish selfishness ALL THE TIME--whether the parents stay together or not. The movie portays the anguish of the experience of the disorder in a parent--the overvaluation/devaluation funhouse--the dad would be diagnosed as Narcisstic Personality Proper, probably with overt borderline functioning. The son APPEARS to be narcisstically injured from an early age...to attempt to rescue the healthy, dependant parts of a person from the rigid, maladaptive narcissitic defense mechanisms is EXTREMELY DIFFICULT, as you can kind of see from the narcissism of the dad. When I say the film, I thought the director had purposely and knowledgeably made an objects-relation film about pathological narcissism in a family....so many people have narcissistic parents, that this movie just makes you cry for all of us who do...the people who DON'T get it are those who probably have healthy parents with good self-esteem--and though they are clueless, THEY are the lucky ones. Great film--those of us who GET it probably lived it. Pathological narcissism feeds down through families--this is an excellent rendition of the damaged lives it leaves to carry on this painful personality disorder. Does Baumbach consciously realize what he experienced and wrote about? Expand
  3. ZakT.
    Jan 1, 2006
    10
    Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney are excellent in their roles as self involved parents and all of the characters are written very realistically.
  4. Dre
    Jan 22, 2006
    10
    Best film of the year.
  5. AndrewC.
    Jan 8, 2006
    9
    Doubt I'll see a better movie from '05.
  6. [Anonymous]
    Feb 3, 2006
    9
    Brilliant writing, brilliant acting. Personal, unique directorial vision. Only weakness is slightly unambitious plot.
  7. Jared
    Oct 20, 2005
    10
    This is a phenomenal movie. The characters are supposed to be flawed and we are supposed to be disgusted by both the mother and father's behavior, especially the latter's. It is the story of a family breaking apart due to selfishness and self-indulgence and the devastating effect that has on the children. At the same time the movie doesn't just leave things in black and This is a phenomenal movie. The characters are supposed to be flawed and we are supposed to be disgusted by both the mother and father's behavior, especially the latter's. It is the story of a family breaking apart due to selfishness and self-indulgence and the devastating effect that has on the children. At the same time the movie doesn't just leave things in black and white and even inviteds us to sympathize with the father and mother. Those who reviewed this beforehand need to learn that not all characters in movies are supposed to be perfect and it is this very imperfection that is so damaging to the children of such a marriage but which allows us to identify with them. Watch some good movies and you'll see that there are lots of complex characters out there and in the real world as well. Expand
  8. FrankB.
    Jan 1, 2006
    10
    Thoughtfull, rigorous, funny and sad. Great acting with story the dares not wrap everything up perfectly neatly.
  9. Bryan
    Mar 27, 2006
    9
    my only problem with this movie is that in 1987, there is no way that Walt plays "Hey You" and passes it off as his own and no one calls him on it until AFTER the concert is over. The Wall was huge at that point and someone would have noticed before the concert even started and said something.
  10. EvanS.
    Apr 15, 2006
    10
    To all those people who rated this movie poorly, um, you're idiots. Yes, it's painful to watch this film and that's point because the subject of this film is, um, tough and raw. Divorce is devastating, especially for a teenager and the fact that Noah Baumbach infuses so much subversive humor (like Jeff Daniel's taking his son to see "Blue Velvet") is miraculous. This To all those people who rated this movie poorly, um, you're idiots. Yes, it's painful to watch this film and that's point because the subject of this film is, um, tough and raw. Divorce is devastating, especially for a teenager and the fact that Noah Baumbach infuses so much subversive humor (like Jeff Daniel's taking his son to see "Blue Velvet") is miraculous. This is the first American film I've seen that's able to effectively skewer our divorce culture and show the real emotional fallout without blinking. Expand
  11. kevin
    May 12, 2006
    10
    This movie is incredible. fred b. is an idiot. things were resolved at the end of this film, you just had to pay attention to symbolism. [***SPOILER***] when walt is in his therapist's office he said he was always scared of the squid and the whale fighting and had to watch with his hands over his eyes. the squid and the whale symbolize his parents, and walt going to watch the squid This movie is incredible. fred b. is an idiot. things were resolved at the end of this film, you just had to pay attention to symbolism. [***SPOILER***] when walt is in his therapist's office he said he was always scared of the squid and the whale fighting and had to watch with his hands over his eyes. the squid and the whale symbolize his parents, and walt going to watch the squid and the whale at the end symbolizes him coming to terms with his parent's divorce because he is no longer afraid to watch the squid and the whale (AKA his parents) fight anymore. Expand
  12. GregI..
    Nov 2, 2005
    9
    A wonderful, funny, heartbreaking, original film with great performances and masterful direction.
  13. jimr.
    Oct 16, 2005
    10
    Loved those darn characters.specially that wacky tennis pro. I'd give it an 11 if I could.
  14. garheard
    Oct 21, 2005
    9
    Just because characters don't have the high-gloss sheen of a big-budget flick or lack the bland heroic qualities of typical protagonists doesn't make this a bad flick. To Fantasy and Wendy, I'd encourage you to see something "safe" like Just Like Heaven. For someone interested in real drama, with witty dialogue, flawed characters and a nifty little soundtrack, go watch this movie.
  15. eleanorj
    Oct 23, 2005
    10
    Amazing film. hilarious and heartbreaking. best acting perfomances by JD and LL. rich characters - wanted to see more.
  16. JohnM.
    Dec 7, 2005
    10
    One of my favorite films of the year. Baumbach's brilliantly written characters, every single one with devastating character flaws, are beautifully realized by the actors. A cinematic world I never wanted to leave, everything score with me so perfectly.
  17. ChadS.
    Jan 13, 2006
    10
    "The Squid and the Whale" has a structure that reminds me of "Almost Famous". The great Cameron Crowe film told two stories; how William Miller comes of age, and the death of rock and roll. Noah Baumbach's debut also touches upon the dire straits that an artform is headed towards, while majestically, scathingly, tells the story of a family that's eviscerated by ego and O.P.P. "The Squid and the Whale" has a structure that reminds me of "Almost Famous". The great Cameron Crowe film told two stories; how William Miller comes of age, and the death of rock and roll. Noah Baumbach's debut also touches upon the dire straits that an artform is headed towards, while majestically, scathingly, tells the story of a family that's eviscerated by ego and O.P.P. [***Spoiler***]The key scene is when Bernard(Jeff Daniels) speaks condescendingly about a "popular" novelist he admits is good, but gives the backhanded compliment, for a genre writer. In 1986, this author was well-thought of, but today, his status is one who is thought to be an all-time-great, although his work isn't "serious", like say the work of the late Saul Bellow(whose novel is used as a prop, I think, to serve as a popular/literary novel binary). Bernard Berkman is a writer of well-received novels, but they're too dense, too inaccesible for the hoi polloi, and will soon be forgotten. It's a private joke among literature nuts when he dismisses the author of "The Hot Kid". There is also a connection between the appearance of a certain ABC sitcom that ran from 1977 to 1984, and his inability to be published. If you read the backpage of Entertainment Weekly, the ideological war that Stephen King wages against literary fiction as being elitist, and how he champions writers who have no chance of being shortlisted for the National Book Award, will inform you what this movie is really about. The divorce, the sperm, the Baldwin; that's all smoke and mirrors. The rivalry between the writing Berkmans made me want to re-read Tabitha King's "One on One", a novel every bit as good as some of her husband's work. Expand
  18. RolandG
    Dec 6, 2006
    10
    A troubling and visceral movie that had me squirming all over my seat and peeking through fingers in parts. Uncomfortable to watch with thoroughly unpleasant characters. However overall it was a beautiful and ultimately satisfying piece of filmmaking which presented the difficulties of dealing with divorce and in particular the enormous difficulties in dealing with narcissistic parents. A troubling and visceral movie that had me squirming all over my seat and peeking through fingers in parts. Uncomfortable to watch with thoroughly unpleasant characters. However overall it was a beautiful and ultimately satisfying piece of filmmaking which presented the difficulties of dealing with divorce and in particular the enormous difficulties in dealing with narcissistic parents. The acting was first rate. Recommended only if you are able to deal with feeling thoroughly uncomfortable and are able to look deeper than the superficial layers of a movie. Expand
  19. GregW
    Jan 5, 2006
    10
    This was one of the most painfully funny movies I've ever seen. My parents haven't even gone through a divorce, and I related to it. It shows the first time you see your parents as humans, not some drone who is dull and gives you rules you don't understand. And Jeff Daniels' performance was nothing short of brilliant.
  20. GabeR.
    Jan 5, 2006
    10
    Excellent.
  21. SimonS.
    Apr 18, 2006
    10
    Extremely well made movie. People, if you're going to watch an Indy movie you have to be open minded. Im really amazed it has a really low user rating. The movie deals with flawed human beings (like all of us) and is in a way quite redemptive and accepting. I loved it.
  22. BradP.
    Apr 19, 2006
    9
    Painful and entertaining - I grew up among some of these people in NY in the '60s, but thankfully my own folks did a much better job. Jeff Daniels is terrific as a middle-aged intellectual utterly trapped by hubris and his past. You watch the two boys get endlessly manipulated by the carping parents who use their intelligence only to make matters worse. It highlights the peculiar Painful and entertaining - I grew up among some of these people in NY in the '60s, but thankfully my own folks did a much better job. Jeff Daniels is terrific as a middle-aged intellectual utterly trapped by hubris and his past. You watch the two boys get endlessly manipulated by the carping parents who use their intelligence only to make matters worse. It highlights the peculiar disconnect between high achievement in one area of life and failure in others; this too I have seen. Beautiful minds with empty hearts. The film ends in the middle, as one reviewer complained - but that is appropriate. There is a lot to come, more than can be put here; and we are left to imagine that for ourselves. I wouldn't be so affected were the portrayals not so dead-on. All 4 primary cast members are superb and disturbed. Expand
  23. bernier.
    Apr 9, 2006
    10
    Great movie.
  24. ChrisL.
    May 12, 2006
    9
    If you can handle the complexities of uncertainty, and if you hold the belief that our lives are never neat and organized and pretty, then you'll appreciate this film. The characters are wonderfully drawn, the core dilemma handled with equal measures of humour and heartbreaking sentiment, and the ethos created with a light, deft hand. One knock: the mother is not as well drawn as her If you can handle the complexities of uncertainty, and if you hold the belief that our lives are never neat and organized and pretty, then you'll appreciate this film. The characters are wonderfully drawn, the core dilemma handled with equal measures of humour and heartbreaking sentiment, and the ethos created with a light, deft hand. One knock: the mother is not as well drawn as her sons and husband, and though Linney does as much as she can to bring a fullness to this mysterious character, I was left with the niggling suspicion that the director simply did not know her. Otherwise, this is a fine film--unless you like all your loose-ends neatly tied. Expand
  25. DanL.
    May 4, 2006
    10
    Ignore the negative reviews here, this movie is unconventional by modern standards, but it is also moving and incredibly unsettling. The characters are written with haunting honesty, and the story ends on a tragic, yet proper note. I can't blame people for not getting The Squid and the Whale. When I originally saw it in the theater most people simply gawked at the ending, the truth Ignore the negative reviews here, this movie is unconventional by modern standards, but it is also moving and incredibly unsettling. The characters are written with haunting honesty, and the story ends on a tragic, yet proper note. I can't blame people for not getting The Squid and the Whale. When I originally saw it in the theater most people simply gawked at the ending, the truth is, by american cinema standards we (as viewers) are used to having the point driven into our faces with a hammer. We're used to some ridiculously huge monologue, or character change or something, and lets be real, alot of life is painful, alot of life is unresolved, and alot of life is still unknown. The Squid and the Whale captures the pain of that perfectly. Expand
  26. Dave
    Nov 16, 2005
    10
    I knew Noah Baumbach was destined for great things after seeing "Kicking and Screaming" (no, not the one that was released earlier in the year!!) in the mid 90's. Daniels and Linney were great, as usual, and I agree the kids were also very good. I can really relate to this film since my parents also divorced. Keep up the good work Noah!
  27. ms
    Nov 24, 2005
    9
    Somehow I doubt that those who gave this movie a score lower then a five were looking at all of the aspects of the film as a critic should. Somehow I doubt that they didn't even pay attention to the fact that this is a movie for those who won't squirm in their seats. It's a dramatic film with the darkest of humor and the most tragic of divorces. It realistically captures Somehow I doubt that those who gave this movie a score lower then a five were looking at all of the aspects of the film as a critic should. Somehow I doubt that they didn't even pay attention to the fact that this is a movie for those who won't squirm in their seats. It's a dramatic film with the darkest of humor and the most tragic of divorces. It realistically captures the fractured aftermath of simmering divorce and how it affects the children of the parents responsible. To those who call the acting amateurish..to shame my friend...to shame. Jeff Daniels gives the performance of the year and probably his career and Laura Linney is a brilliant actress in her own right as well. There is virtually no plot although the story has a ton of substance and was more then enough to keep me in my seat. People have to realize that this story is not about being entertaining...this is artistic but it's like a very acurate portrait. It really made me cry it was so real..I knew families who went through divorces..I knew people who had the same issues with their families...this was just a solidification of my knowledge..a secondary source if you will. It could have been a documentary had it been filmed with actual lives. How people can put this film down with a zero or any red score is absolutely astounding because these are the same people who give Fantastic Four an 8...peace out. Expand
  28. allyl.
    Nov 4, 2005
    9
    Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney were great as usual but I was really impressed with the kids. They were terrific, not cutesy movie kids. I definitely recommend this movie.
  29. JanetteY.
    Nov 6, 2005
    10
    Wow, one of my favorite films of the year! And what an appropriate title to keep me on the track of intrigue, watching the inner and outer battles and struggles each member of a broken home faces. Themes of foolish anger and insecurity trumpet from scene to scene. Indeed, a dramatic and psychological thriller that exposes human flaws a bold and unpretentious way.
  30. BrucutZ.
    Oct 19, 2005
    9
    Sharp and funny movie about four sad and lonely people working through a messy divorce in NYC mid-1980s. It's self-aware enough not to sentimentalize any of the characters, but I ended up with sympathy for each of them...even the sadly narcissistic whale of a Dad (well-played by Jeff Daniels). He's forced to confront his loneliness and how much he needs his sons' approal, Sharp and funny movie about four sad and lonely people working through a messy divorce in NYC mid-1980s. It's self-aware enough not to sentimentalize any of the characters, but I ended up with sympathy for each of them...even the sadly narcissistic whale of a Dad (well-played by Jeff Daniels). He's forced to confront his loneliness and how much he needs his sons' approal, since his life otherwise holds almost nothing. Mom is well-played by Laura Linney, but she's the one underwritten character here (and the only female principal). Anyway, a provocative and bittersweet movie about how smart people can mess up as disasterously as anyone. Expand
  31. JeremyW.
    Dec 12, 2005
    9
    Not an easy movie to watch, but perhaps, one of the most rewarding of the past year. An often bitingly satirical and anguishing picture which provides a look at the life of a family in the midst of self-destruction and turmoil. Baumbach's screenplay will get most of the kudos as it richly deserves, but ultimately it is the performances of Linney and Daniels that give the kind of Not an easy movie to watch, but perhaps, one of the most rewarding of the past year. An often bitingly satirical and anguishing picture which provides a look at the life of a family in the midst of self-destruction and turmoil. Baumbach's screenplay will get most of the kudos as it richly deserves, but ultimately it is the performances of Linney and Daniels that give the kind of heart-breaking and inspired touch that makes this movie work. Its perhaps the one film this year that pulls no punches in its look at a academic and bohemian lifestyle and how it affects those involved in a family. Interesting from start to finish, you'll leave the theater, not being able to think about anything other than what you've just seen. Expand
  32. Robin
    Oct 22, 2005
    9
    Intelligent, real, inspired -- a nuanced, orginal take on the ol' growing-up-with-a-screwed-up-family theme, the parents flawlessly portrayed and the kids wholly believable. Gritty yet sympathetic. Wonderful filmmaking.
  33. bernier.
    Dec 27, 2005
    10
    Great movie.
  34. jarenm.
    Oct 24, 2005
    9
    This movie has life in it. Complex, heartfelt, quirky, horrifying, loveable, humorous--that which defines family life. A beautiful film. However, if you want over-simplified stories about one-dimensional characters start going to movies with Wendy and Fantasy.
  35. Spongeee
    Dec 4, 2005
    10
    I went into the film thinking that it was going to be a yuppy-cliche indie "liberal" film, but instead, I got a heart-felt, greatly crafted, shot, edited, and written film. All the characters draw you in and make you care about the film. Quality film!!! Brotha!!!
  36. BobA.
    Jan 16, 2006
    10
    I'll never understand people who hate a movie because the characters are unlikable (I suppose that would also make Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and Citizen Kane bad) as if the point of every movie is to make you like the characters. The story (with its, yes, awful characters) has something truly honest to say.
  37. ChrisM.
    Jan 22, 2006
    9
    If you didn't like it you didn't get it. And that's just kinda too bad.
  38. D-fiddy
    Mar 24, 2006
    10
    I found this movie too be so completely honest and just downright amazing. I found my self entertained throughout and did not want it to end. Ends abruptly, but really wraps it up for you. A must see for any Wes Anderson Fans.
  39. dade
    Nov 26, 2006
    10
    Moving, troubled and beautiful. I still can't get over the fact that the father was played by the same guy who was forced to lock himself in the bathroom in Dumb and Dumber after accidentally consuming a large amount of laxative. Jeff Daniels was amazing.
Metascore
82

Universal acclaim - based on 37 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 35 out of 37
  2. Negative: 0 out of 37
  1. 80
    Tender, cruel, and very funny, Baumbach's fourth feature turns family history into a sort of urban myth.
  2. 80
    Baumbach crams an impressive amount of characterization and humor into 82 minutes.
  3. Reviewed by: Scott Foundas
    70
    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.