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).

About Phillip

Phillip Cairns is a beekeeper in St. John's, Newfoundland, who writes about beekeeping at mudsongs.org.

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

  1. I watched this recently. It’s realism and awkward situations will make you squirm in your seat; however, it’s also predictable. I enjoyed it for portraying interesting family situations, but I wouldn’t consider it a 4 star movie – it’s not something I have a desire to watch again, which is my definition of a 4 star movie (assuming 4 stars is the max).

  2. …I wouldn’t consider it a 4 star movie – it’s not something I have a desire to watch again, which is my definition of a 4 star movie…

    Not me. If I have a strong reaction to it, if I’m engaged and not bored or irritated by it, that’s good enough for me. “The Squid and The Whale” may not be a masterpiece, but it’s got more going for it than most movies playing at any multiplex in North America, and by most I’d say around 95%. So it wins a 4-star rating by default. Some might find it a bit predictable, but the story is not contrived, the characters react like real people, the outcome of their actions is not simplified or dumbed-down, and it’s still entertaining. That’s what I call a good movie.

    I have no great desire to see The Brave One with Jodie Foster again any time soon. I’m pretty sure I got everything I’m going to get from it by watching it once, but what I got was pretty damn impressive. Jodie Foster’s performance elevates the movie so it feels like more than just a retread of “Death Wish.” It’s “Death Wish” with intelligence, and it’s thoughtful. It has more to offer than most movies I could find at the video store. So it wins.

  3. have been passing this one over will have to get it….I have had soft spot for jeff dainiels ever since something wild…oh and also ray liotta…also liked him in this…

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