The Squid and the Whale
|The Squid and the Whale|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Noah Baumbach|
|Produced by||Wes Anderson
|Written by||Noah Baumbach|
|Music by||Britta Phillips
|Cinematography||Robert D. Yeoman|
|Editing by||Tim Streeto|
|Distributed by||Samuel Goldwyn Films|
|Running time||81 minutes|
The Squid and the Whale is a 2005 American comedy-drama film written and directed by Noah Baumbach and produced by Wes Anderson. It tells the semi-autobiographical story of two boys in Brooklyn dealing with their parents' divorce in the 1980s. The film is named after the giant squid and sperm whale diorama housed at the American Museum of Natural History, which is seen in the film. The film was shot on Super 16mm, mostly using a handheld camera.
The Squid and the Whale was a critical success. At the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, the film won awards for best dramatic direction and screenwriting, and was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize. Baumbach later received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay. The film received six Independent Spirit Award nominations and three Golden Globe nominations. The New York Film Critics Circle, Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the National Board of Review voted its screenplay the year's best.
Bernard Berkman (Jeff Daniels) is an arrogant once-promising novelist whose career has gone into a slow decline as he spends more time teaching and less time writing. His wife, Joan (Laura Linney), has recently begun publishing her own work to widespread acclaim, which only increases the growing tension between them. One day, Bernard and Joan's two sons, 16-year-old Walt (Jesse Eisenberg) and 12-year-old Frank (Owen Kline), are told that their parents are separating, with Bernard renting a house on the other side of Prospect Park from their home in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
As the parents set up a schedule for spending time with their children, Walt and Frank can hardly imagine that things could get more combative between their parents. They do, however, as Joan begins dating Ivan (William Baldwin), Frank's tennis instructor, and Bernard starts sharing his new house with Lili (Anna Paquin), one of his students. Meanwhile, the two boys begin taking sides in the battle between their parents, with Walt taking after his father and Frank siding with his mother.
Along with the trouble both boys exhibit verbally with their parents, they also show internal struggles and very different ways of handling the stress of their parents' divorce. Walt's most obvious cry for help is when he performs and claims to have written "Hey You" by Pink Floyd at his school's talent show. After Walt wins first place and receives praise from his family and friends, his school realizes that he did not write the song. At this point, the school calls Bernard and Joan in to discuss Walt's issues, which are mainly fabricating his accomplishments. It is decided that Walt should meet with a school psychologist. Meanwhile, Frank exhibits his own internal turmoil by repeatedly masturbating at school. He also begins to frequently drink beer.
It is during the meeting with the psychologist that Walt finally starts to see things more objectively, without the taint of his father's opinions. The psychologist asks Walt about his childhood memories and it becomes clear to Walt that his father was never really present, and that his mother was the one whom he remembers caring for him. His fondest childhood memory is when his mother would take him to see the giant squid and whale exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History; the exhibit scared him as a small child so he would often close his eyes whenever they went by the exhibit at the museum. It also becomes clear to him that his father was in fact often emotionally abusive towards Joan.
After a heated argument between Bernard and Joan over custody, Bernard collapses on the street outside their home and is taken to the hospital. Bernard asks for Walt to stay by his side, but Walt now finally fed up with his father's selfish ways instead runs to visit the squid and whale. The film concludes with him pondering over the exhibit and his past.
- Jeff Daniels as Bernard Berkman
- Laura Linney as Joan Berkman
- Jesse Eisenberg as Walt Berkman
- Owen Kline as Frank Berkman
- Anna Paquin as Lili
- William Baldwin as Ivan
- Halley Feiffer as Sophie Greenberg
- David Benger as Carl
- Adam Rose as Otto
- Peter Newman as Mr. Greenberg
- Peggy Gormley as Mrs. Greenberg
- Greta Kline as Greta Greenberg
On an episode of Ebert & Roeper, both critics praised the film and gave it a "two thumbs up" rating. Premiere critic Glenn Kenny praised the film, writing, "It's a rare film that can be convincingly tender, bitterly funny, and ruthlessly cutting over the course of fewer than 90 minutes. The Squid and the Whale not only manages this, it also contains moments that sock you with all three qualities at the same time." Time critic Richard Corliss wrote, "The Squid and the Whale is domestic tragedy recollected as comedy: a film whose catalog of deceits and embarrassments, and of love pratfalling over itself, makes it as (excruciatingly) painful as it is (exhilaratingly) funny."
Psychological Aspects of Depression as a Result of Divorce
Children of divorced parents are more susceptible to various problems including withdrawal, anxiety, depression, social problems, and delinquent and aggressive behavior. Of these, withdrawal, depression, social problems, and aggressive behavior are present in The Squid and the Whale. Walt is initially very angry with his mother and blames her for his parents’ divorce. Frank is particularly aggressive and swears profusely in his tennis lessons, while Walt is notably withdrawn, isolates himself from his family, and goes off on his own in a specific instance.
Adolescents who have experienced parental divorce have increased symptoms of anxiety and depression and more problems in school compared to those from non-divorced families. They also experience greater decreases in subjective well-being and smaller increases in self-esteem compared to adolescents who have not been exposed to divorce. Furthermore, boys who have experienced parental divorce have significantly increased problems at school compared to boys who have not experienced parental divorce over a four-year period. In The Squid and the Whale, it is evident that Walt and Frank experience increased problems in school. Frank, in particular, exhibits maladaptive behavior in the form of public fornication in the school library.
Girls who experience parental divorce exhibit a negative change in all outcome variables, whereas boys who experience parental divorce only exhibit a relative increase in school problems. However, there seems to be more adverse effects of divorce among males compared to females in particular areas of adjustment. The absence of the father proves more important in affecting relative change in psychological adjustment among males than females in a four-year period, suggesting that boys are particularly in need of a male role model during adolescence. Frank is portrayed as a very impressionable individual and the separation from his father proves detrimental to his subjective well-being. He decides that he would rather live with his mother than live with his father, perhaps because his father’s new home and lifestyle are too much of a change for him. While in his former home with his mother, he can stay in his own room and grasp for the sense of stability he had become accustomed to. Walt idolizes his father as his intellectual superior in the beginning of the film, but resents him for his selfishness towards the end. In both instances, the relationship between son and father is inherently significant.
Boys who experience parental divorce in early adolescence continue to show significantly higher levels of depressive symptoms into adulthood than those who have not experienced parental divorce. The level of stress in life events around the time of parental divorce appears to be a distinguished predictor of the trajectories of depressive symptoms. The level of stress in life events around the time of parental divorce appears to be a distinguished predictor of the trajectories of depressive symptoms. The association between parental divorce and the depressive symptoms of adolescents is mediated by stressors experienced around the time of the divorce. In The Squid and the Whale, the change in Walt and Frank’s living situation is a stressor to both boys. Walt and Frank move from living in one home with both of their parents to switching between households. This can be understood as a circumstance facilitating the criteria of depressive symptoms. The life disruption hypothesis suggests that the stressful events that coincide and follow parental divorce are more detrimental to a child’s mental health than the effects of divorce. In The Squid and the Whale, Walt gets his first girlfriend and the pressures associated with these new experiences combined with the implications of his parents’ divorce are overwhelming for him. Frank is a pre-adolescent boy on the cusp of puberty, and the combination of the biological changes he experiences and his parents’ divorce is portrayed as too much for him to cope with. This is exhibited by his public fornication in the library and his following lack of remorse. The differences in demanding life events significantly relate to changes in depressive symptoms, particularly in regards to events that involve direct interpersonal relationships. Walt is afraid of getting too close to his girlfriend, Sophie, as a result of his parents’ failed relationship.
It is apparent that there is a significant differentiation in depressed moods between adolescents in single-parent families and stepfamilies, wherein parental remarriage appears to improve emotional well-being. Ivan and Joan’s relationship proves beneficial for Frank’s mental stability. The presence of a male role model is crucial while Bernard is absent and Frank refuses to go stay with him. A major factor that accounts for distress in children in single-parent families is financial difficulties. Financial difficulties are considered the important mediator of distress in adolescents. This is illustrated in The Squid and the Whale where Walt and Frank are portrayed as vulnerable adolescents who are particularly susceptible to emotional and economic hardship. Bernard is depicted as having money issues following his separation from Joan, and his hesitation in giving Frank money to go and get medicine from the store combined with Frank’s inability to get the medicine because he did not have enough money facilitate Frank’s decreases in subjective well-being. It is evident that economic strains are particularly pertinent in the lives of some children that experience parental divorce. Single-parent families appear to be better-equipped in handling the emotional effects of stresses such as conflict and turmoil in a family setting than non-divorced families, however this is only suggested at the end of the film. Familial conflict and turmoil are distinguished stressors in adolescents from non-divorced families, and adolescents from single-parent families largely experience fewer negative stressors from these variables than do those who have non-divorced parents. The final scene of The Squid and the Whale is Walt at the Museum of Natural History facing his childhood fear of the squid and the whale diorama, portraying the silver lining of divorce and the possibility to broaden one’s emotional and psychological horizons.
Awards and nominations
- Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay
- Won awards for best dramatic direction and screenwriting at the Sundance Film Festival
- Six Independent Spirit Award nominations. Best Feature, Best Director (Baumbach), Best Screenplay (Baumbach), Best Supporting Male (Jesse Eisenberg), Best Female Lead (Laura Linney) and Best Male Lead (Jeff Daniels)
- Four Chlotrudis Award nominations (Best Ensemble Cast, Best Original Screenplay for Noah Baumbach, Best Supporting Actor for Jesse Eisenberg) and one win for Jeff Daniels for Best Supporting Actor
- Three Golden Globe nominations (Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy, Jeff Daniels for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy and Laura Linney for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy)
- Won Los Angeles Film Critics Association award for Best Screenplay
- Awarded Best Screenplay by the National Board of Review
- Won New York Film Critics Circle award for Best Screenplay
- Won Best Screenplay and Best Actress (Laura Linney) at the 2005 Toronto Film Critics Association Awards
- Nominated for the Grand Prix of the Belgian Syndicate of Cinema Critics
The film was released on DVD on March 21, 2006 by Sony Pictures. The DVD includes a 45-minute commentary with director Noah Baumbach, another 40-minute commentary with Baumbach and Phillip Lopate, cast interviews, and trailers.
The soundtrack features two songs by Loudon Wainwright III and one by Kate and Anna McGarrigle. It reuses Tangerine Dream's "Love on a Real Train", from Risky Business, for the scenes of Frank's sexual awakenings. Other contemporary popular music is played in the background of scenes, such as The Cars' "Drive" and Bryan Adams' "One Night Love Affair". "Figure Eight", from Schoolhouse Rock, is used as both an instrumental and a vocal.
Pink Floyd's "Hey You" is heard several times in the movie, since it plays a role in the plot and is cited by Walt as capturing his emotional state. Both the original version, and diegetic performances by Jesse Eisenberg and Owen Kline, are used. Baumbach originally wanted to use The Who's "Behind Blue Eyes" instead but he could not secure the rights.
- Track listing
- "Park Slope" - Britta Phillips & Dean Wareham
- "Courting Blues" - Bert Jansch
- "Holland Tunnel" - John Phillips
- "Lullaby" - Loudon Wainwright III
- "Heart Like a Wheel" - Kate & Anna McGarrigle
- "The Bright New Year" - Bert Jansch
- "Drive" - The Cars
- "Let's Go" - The Feelies
- "Figure Eight" - Blossom Dearie
- "Come Sing Me a Happy Song to Prove We All Can Get Along the Lumpy, Bumpy, Long & Dusty Road" - Bert Jansch
- "Hey You " - Pink Floyd (Performed by Dean Wareham)
- "Family Conference" - Britta Phillips & Dean Wareham
- "Street Hassle" - Lou Reed
- "The Swimming Song" - Loudon Wainwright III
- Squid and the Whale, The (2005): Reviews
- Størksen, I., Røysamb, E., Moum, T., & Tambs, K. (2005). Adolescents with a childhood experience of parental divorce: a longitudinal study of mental health and adjustment. (National Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway).
- Ge, X., Natsuaki, M. N., & Conger, R. D. (2006). Trajectories of depressive symptoms and stressful life events among male and female adolescents in divorced and nondivorced families. (University of California).
- Aseltine, R. H. J. (1996). Pathways linking parental divorce with adolescent depression. (University of Massachusetts).
- The Squid and the Whale at the Internet Movie Database
- The Squid and the Whale at allmovie
- The Squid and the Whale at Box Office Mojo
- The Squid and the Whale at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Squid and the Whale at Metacritic
- The Squid and the Whale: A comedic victory, not for the sentimental nthWORD Magazine Shorts