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. TracyR.
    Jan 14, 2006
    7
    It's a well-done movie with some things to day about how children react to divorce, no matter how "managed", and some of the foibles of intellectual people having to deal with emotions instead of ideas. But the character of the father is so over-developed, and to some degree, over-invested in by the director (who no doubt felt this way as a child, but needs to work with his as It's a well-done movie with some things to day about how children react to divorce, no matter how "managed", and some of the foibles of intellectual people having to deal with emotions instead of ideas. But the character of the father is so over-developed, and to some degree, over-invested in by the director (who no doubt felt this way as a child, but needs to work with his as creative material, not therapy) that frankly the whole movie becomes a reaction to and against him, and the rest of the characters, most noticeably the mother, become washed out by comparison. Unfortunately one's entire reaction to the movie becomes dependent on whether you find Dad utterly annoying and worthless, or somehow touching despite the bluster. And that probably accounts for the wildly differing reviews. Expand
  10. BillM.
    Feb 3, 2006
    8
    A small, wonderful movie. Terrific script, beautifully acted. Highly recommended.
  11. 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.
  12. EkwW.
    Mar 31, 2006
    8
    This excellent film dissects the woes of a hyper-intellectual couple whose confused children struggle to grasp the full, awful meaning of divorce. Performances are universally good, especially Daniels and young Jesse Eisenberg. Linney is also fine as the cheating mother. The script has sharp, caustic dialogue and sudden, immediate generalities which burst forth from the pompous father and This excellent film dissects the woes of a hyper-intellectual couple whose confused children struggle to grasp the full, awful meaning of divorce. Performances are universally good, especially Daniels and young Jesse Eisenberg. Linney is also fine as the cheating mother. The script has sharp, caustic dialogue and sudden, immediate generalities which burst forth from the pompous father and rebound from his elder son as gospel. Anyone who has been in the middle of a divorce - whether children or the actual adult participants - will feel the sting. Expand
  13. 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
  14. 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
  15. Adrian
    Nov 16, 2005
    7
    An "Ordinary People" for the oughts...Who would empathize members of a wealthy white family whose only worry in life is how they relate one to another? Educated people high on Maslow's hierarchy have the luxury to figure things out but can't seem to, leading to an absorbing display of human imperfection and pettiness. Relationships are fragile things no matter what resources one An "Ordinary People" for the oughts...Who would empathize members of a wealthy white family whose only worry in life is how they relate one to another? Educated people high on Maslow's hierarchy have the luxury to figure things out but can't seem to, leading to an absorbing display of human imperfection and pettiness. Relationships are fragile things no matter what resources one apparently has to bring to bear. Expand
  16. GregI..
    Nov 2, 2005
    9
    A wonderful, funny, heartbreaking, original film with great performances and masterful direction.
  17. jimr.
    Oct 16, 2005
    10
    Loved those darn characters.specially that wacky tennis pro. I'd give it an 11 if I could.
  18. 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.
  19. MarthaR.
    Dec 24, 2005
    8
    A cautionary tale for divorcing parents who consider themselves "intellectual."
  20. eleanorj
    Oct 23, 2005
    10
    Amazing film. hilarious and heartbreaking. best acting perfomances by JD and LL. rich characters - wanted to see more.
  21. 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.
  22. ArnoldP.
    Oct 29, 2005
    8
    A absolutely poignant and so personal account of children reacting to their parents breakup, that is of course flawed, but with an insight that the characters each portray touched me deeeply. It was compelling and painful to watch, sad and funny. Only serious filmgoers fare not a chick-flick or date movie but a well crafted cinematic play bya very talented writer-director.
  23. 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
  24. 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
  25. 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.
  26. GabeR.
    Jan 5, 2006
    10
    Excellent.
  27. hope
    Jan 9, 2006
    8
    Those who didn't find the movie engaging or realistic make me wonder if they have ever experienced the futility of human error. Yes, some of the character traits are magnified, but they are hand-picked to portray the most unnerving sides of human frailty - and they are disturbingly real. I am actually grateful that some of you think that these characters are shallow and Those who didn't find the movie engaging or realistic make me wonder if they have ever experienced the futility of human error. Yes, some of the character traits are magnified, but they are hand-picked to portray the most unnerving sides of human frailty - and they are disturbingly real. I am actually grateful that some of you think that these characters are shallow and one-dimensional, because it means you've had the good fortune not to come across situations like these! Tight script, raw acting, irritating characters, undeniably real. Expand
  28. 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.
  29. 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
  30. bernier.
    Apr 9, 2006
    10
    Great movie.
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.