A Realistic Family Drama in “The Squid and the Whale”

I enjoyed The Squid and the Whale so much, I rented it twice over a two-day period and enjoyed it even more the second time. It’s the story of two adolescent brothers and how they react to their parents’ splitting up, and how their parents react. Their individual reactions are honest and weird and so real that it’s strange to find it all entertaining. Nothing seems exaggerated for dramatic or comedic effect. It’s a well-written story, well-acted, with likeable but not entirely admirable characters, which is nice to see for a change, because it lends a sense of realism to everything that happens. This could be, and probably is, the story of a real family, and it feels that way. I like everything about this movie. I don’t know what else to say without giving it away.

The writer-director, Noah Baumbach, made Margot at the Wedding starring Nicole Kidman and Jack Black after The Squid and The Whale. It has a similar quirkiness as The Squid and the Whale, but the dysfunction of the characters is so exaggerated it doesn’t feel real, and by the end of it, I developed such a strong dislike for most of the people in the movie, I couldn’t sympathize with any of them. Worth a look if you like the Baumbach’s style, but otherwise, difficult to recommend (Margot at the Wedding, that is).