The Squid and The Whale Review By Tarek Fayoumi


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Who is it to blame for the Berkman’s tragic lifestyle? That question may make viewers wonder why the divorced parents in “The Squid and The Whale” are just causing more heartbreaking facts and theories about their lives which only leads their two sons to divide and conquer between both the mom and the dad. Is Frank jealous of Joan’s success of being a writer? Is Frank not that motivated to write more sensational novels? Did anyone have an affair? Or could it be because of both of the parent’s having weird habits?

Now this is a film that is just realistic. Noah Baumbach wrote and directed this film and brings his childhood experiences of his life with him and his brother dealing with their parents divorce in Brooklyn, New York. As the divorce starts to happen, Baumbach details the boys immature behavior and disrespectful attitude towards the parents they despise. And the way that the parents seem distracted–just they do not care, as long as they are away from each other the happier they are. 

The parents are played by Jeff Daniels (as Bernard) and Laura Linney (as Joan). Both writers and professors in Brooklyn New York with two boys Frank (Owen Kline) and Walt (Jesse Eisenberg). Frank expresses an interest for being a tennis pro and Walt has a passion for guitar. In the opening, the parents do things with their kids and hangout but Baumbach has the characters dialogue lack to give the sense that something is not right. Than later on in the film there is a huge argument. After the argument there is a talk about the parents getting divorced. Within like eight or ten minutes into the film it goes from somewhat mediocre family to the hard to overcome divorced family.

All divorces have jealously involved, events from the past and the present allow both of the parents to see themselves as a couple that was not meant for each other. Bernard is a talented writer but jealous of how his ex-wife Joan turned out to be more successful than he was. Also he feels like her affairs in the past play a big part in their divorce (however the affair is not really defined).

“The Squid and the Whale” goes between conversation to conversation between both parents and their children as if trying to put together a puzzle to find reasons to hate one another. From Frank’s point of view, he feels his mother is not responsible at all for the divorce and that his father is just stuck-up jealous but he believes his father has a right to be jealous. Walt on the other hand sees that for him, it is best to hate his mom. He believes everything is true that is said from his father. That his mom is a liar and a cheater and that she does not deserve respect from him. Both the boys hate a variety of aspects only geared on one parent. They think being hurtful to the one they hate is the way to solve problems.

I wonder how in the process of the film that Wes Anderson was involved. Originally Anderson was set to direct it and Baumbach was suppose to produce it, but they rotated the positions. Baumbach being the director and Anderson as the producer. Anderson felt Baumbach should direct it since the story is all based off of Baumbach’sl life. I wonder though how Anderson could have directed it. Maybe a film where all of the descriptions are listed, their actions, and which parent they choose. That would be something interesting to watch but it would be more in the comedy sense than the dramatic sense. Therefore, Baumbach was the right choice to direct this honest and true drama. Four stars.

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