The Squid and the Whale

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The Squid and the Whale
Theatrical release poster
Directed byNoah Baumbach
Written byNoah Baumbach
Produced by
CinematographyRobert D. Yeoman
Edited byTim Streeto
Music by
  • Original Media[1]
  • Ambush Entertainment[1]
  • American Empirical Pictures[1]
  • Peter Newman Productions[1]
  • Andrew Lauren Productions[1]
Distributed by
Release dates
  • January 23, 2005 (2005-01-23) (Sundance)
  • December 16, 2005 (2005-12-16) (United States)
Running time
81 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$1.5 million[2]
Box office$11.2 million[2]

The Squid and the Whale is a 2005 American independent 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 1986. 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 16 mm, mostly using a handheld camera.

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. Baumbach became one of the few screenwriters to ever sweep "The Big Four" critics awards (Los Angeles Film Critics' Association, National Board of Review, National Society of Film Critics, and New York Film Critics' Circle).


It is 1986. Bernard Berkman is an arrogant, once-promising novelist whose career has gone into a slow decline; he cannot find an agent. His wife, Joan, has recently begun publishing her own work to widespread acclaim, which only increases the growing tension between them.

One day, Bernard and Joan tell their two sons, 16-year-old Walt and 12-year-old Frank, that they are separating, with Bernard renting a house on the other side of Prospect Park from their home in Park Slope, Brooklyn. The parents agree to joint custody, and to spending equal time with their children, but, after separation, the parental relationship becomes more combative than before.

Joan begins dating Ivan, Frank's tennis instructor, and Bernard starts sharing his new house with Lili, one of his students. The two boys begin taking sides in the battle between their parents, with Frank siding with their mother and Walt with their father. Walt idolizes their father and tries to emulate him: he blames their 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. Frank repeatedly masturbates at school; he begins to drink beer and imitates Ivan's mannerisms. Over-influenced by his father, Walt spoils his relationship with Sophie, his girlfriend, and she breaks up with him. He performs and claims to have written "Hey You" by Pink Floyd at his school's talent show. After he 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. They all agree that he should see a therapist.

At the meeting with the therapist, Walt starts to see things without the taint of his father's opinions. The therapist asks Walt for a happy memory. After some reluctance, he tells how his mother would take him, when he was very young, to see the giant squid and whale exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History; the exhibit scared him, so he would look at it through his fingers. Then, at home, they would discuss what they saw. As they talked, the exhibit would become less scary. It becomes clear to Walt that his father was never really present, and that his mother was the one who cared for him.

After a heated argument between Bernard and Joan over custody and whether Joan would take him back, Bernard collapses on the street outside their home and is taken to the hospital. Bernard asks Walt to stay by his side, but Walt instead runs to the Natural History Museum. The film ends with him standing in front of the exhibit, now able to look at it.

The giant squid and whale exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History.



Bill Murray, a frequent collaborator to producer Wes Anderson, was considered for the role of Bernard Berkman.[3][4][5] John Turturro was also considered for the role.[6][7]

Noah Baumbach looked to documentaries, French New Wave films, and John Cassavetes and early Martin Scorsese films when envisioning the style of the film.[8] He shot the film in Super 16 rather than digital video "to give the film an authentic 1980’s feel", commenting "Super 16 also feels lived-in, instantly looks like an older film. I wanted to handhold the movie, but steadily, so you detect only a hint of movement. It added to the immediacy of the whole thing."[9]

The screenplay was intentionally pared down. Baumbach explained, "I really wanted this [film] to be an experience that people live through. Which is how people talk about action films. In some ways, maybe the cinematic equivalent of that would be not to give people moments of reflection. So that you’re taken through each scene, and then you’re right into another. A lot of scenes start on the dialogue, and the dialogue prelapses the next scene — So you never have time. There’s no sun rises over Brooklyn shot, no establishing shot."[9] Baumbach has said the film is semi-autobiographical.[9][8]


On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 92% approval rating, based on 154 reviews, with an average rating of 7.90/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "This is a piercingly honest, acidly witty look at divorce and its impact on a family."[10] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 82 out of 100, based on 37 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[11]

On an episode of Ebert & Roeper, both critics praised the film and gave it a "two thumbs up" rating.[12][13] 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."[14] 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."[15]

The English Indie folk band Noah and the Whale takes its name from a combination of the director's name (Noah Baumbach) and the film's title.[16]


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipients Result Ref.
Academy Awards 5 March 2006 Best Original Screenplay Noah Baumbach Nominated [17]
Critics Choice Movie Awards 9 January 2006 Best Screenplay Nominated [18]
Best Young Actor Jesse Eisenberg Nominated
Owen Kline Nominated
Golden Globe Awards 16 January 2006 Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy The Squid and the Whale Nominated [19]
Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy Jeff Daniels Nominated
Best Actress – Motion Picture Comedy or Musical Laura Linney Nominated
Gotham Awards 30 November 2005 Best Ensemble Cast William Baldwin, Jeff Daniels, Jesse Eisenberg, Owen Kline, Laura Linney, Anna Paquin Won [20]
Independent Spirit Awards 4 March 2006 Best Feature The Squid and the Whale Nominated [21]
Best Director Noah Baumbach Nominated
Best Screenplay Nominated
Best Male Lead Jeff Daniels Nominated
Best Female Lead Laura Linney Nominated
Best Supporting Male Jesse Eisenberg Nominated
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards 11 December 2005 Best Screenplay Noah Baumbach Won [22]
National Board of Review Awards 10 January 2006 Best Original Screenplay Won [23]
National Society of Film Critics 7 January 2006 Best Screenplay Won
New York Film Critics Circle Awards 8 January 2006 Best Screenplay Won [25]
Satellite Awards 17 December 2005 Best Original Screenplay Nominated [26]
Best Supporting Actress – Drama Laura Linney Won
Sundance Film Festival 29 January 2005 Grand Jury Prize Noah Baumbach Nominated
Best Director Won
Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award Won
Writers Guild of America Awards 14 February 2006 Best Original Screenplay Nominated [28]

Home media[edit]

The film was released on DVD on March 21, 2006 by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The DVD includes a 45-minute commentary with director Noah Baumbach, another 40-minute commentary with Baumbach and Phillip Lopate, cast interviews, and trailers. In 2013 Mill Creek Entertainment released the film for the first time on Blu-ray in a 2 pack set with Running with Scissors. All extras were dropped for the Blu-ray release.[29]

The Criterion Collection re-released the film on DVD and Blu-ray on November 22, 2016 which included new interviews with Baumbach and actors Jeff Daniels, Jesse Eisenberg, Owen Kline and Laura Linney; a new conversation about the score and other music in the film between Baumbach and composers Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips; a 2005 documentary titled Behind The Squid and the Whale; audition footage; and the original trailers.[30]


The soundtrack features two songs by Loudon Wainwright III and one by Kate & 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' "Run to You". "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.[31]

  1. "Park Slope" – Britta Phillips & Dean Wareham
  2. "Courting Blues" – Bert Jansch
  3. "Holland Tunnel" – John Phillips
  4. "Lullaby" – Loudon Wainwright III
  5. "Heart Like a Wheel" – Kate & Anna McGarrigle
  6. "The Bright New Year" – Bert Jansch
  7. "Drive" – The Cars
  8. "Let's Go" – The Feelies
  9. "Figure Eight" – Blossom Dearie
  10. "Come Sing Me a Happy Song to Prove We All Can Get Along the Lumpy, Bumpy, Long & Dusty Road" – Bert Jansch
  11. "Hey You " – Pink Floyd (Performed by Dean Wareham)
  12. "Family Conference" – Britta Phillips & Dean Wareham
  13. "Street Hassle" – Lou Reed
  14. "The Swimming Song" – Loudon Wainwright III
  15. "Love on a Real Train" – Tangerine Dream


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "The Squid and the Whale (2005)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved October 22, 2023.
  2. ^ a b "The Squid and the Whale (2005) - Financial Information". The Numbers. Retrieved March 1, 2018.
  3. ^ Evans, Bradford (February 17, 2011). "The Lost Roles of Bill Murray". Splitsider. Archived from the original on May 20, 2015. Retrieved May 25, 2015.
  4. ^ Farr, John (September 19, 2014). "Bill Murray and the Roles That Got Away". HuffPost.
  5. ^ Locke, Greg W. (August 26, 2011). "The Top 25 Roles Bill Murray Didn't Take". Ze Catalist. Archived from the original on November 25, 2011. Retrieved May 25, 2015.
  6. ^ Dawtrey, Adam (November 3, 2002). "'Squid' puts squeeze on thesp threesome". Variety.
  7. ^ "The Squid and the Whale". AFI Catalog.
  8. ^ a b Murray, Noel (November 9, 2005). "Noah Baumbach". The A.V. Club. Retrieved October 12, 2022.
  9. ^ a b c Abeel, Erica (December 20, 2009). "Decade: Noah Baumbach on "The Squid and the Whale"". IndieWire. Retrieved October 12, 2022.
  10. ^ "The Squid and the Whale (2005)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 4, 2021.
  11. ^ "The Squid and the Whale". Metacritic.
  12. ^ "Elizabethtown/Where the Truth Lies/Domino/North Country/Separate Lies/The Squid and the Whale". October 15, 2005. Ebert & Roeper. Season 20. Episode 20. ABC.
  13. ^ Ebert, Roger (November 3, 2005). "The Squid and the Whale movie review (2005)". Retrieved July 6, 2022.
  14. ^ Kenny, Glenn (October 6, 2005). "The Squid and the Whale". Premiere. Archived from the original on December 24, 2005. Retrieved July 6, 2022.
  15. ^ Corliss, Richard (October 2, 2005). "Movies: The Very Bad Dad". Time. Retrieved July 6, 2022.
  16. ^ Modell, Josh (October 13, 2009). "Noah And The Whale: The First Days Of Spring". The A.V. Club. Retrieved January 6, 2014.
  17. ^ "The 78th Academy Awards (2006) Nominees and Winners". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). Archived from the original on 9 November 2014. Retrieved 20 November 2011.
  18. ^ "The BFCA Critics' Choice Awards: 2005". Broadcast Film Critics Association. Archived from the original on 29 June 2012. Retrieved 19 August 2015.
  19. ^ Silverman, Stephen (December 13, 2005). "Brokeback, Housewives Top Globe Nods". People. Retrieved January 10, 2018.
  20. ^ "Gotham Awards Nominations Announced". Filmmaker Magazine. 25 October 2005. Archived from the original on 14 March 2014. Retrieved 3 January 2019.
  21. ^ ""Brokeback," "Capote," "Crash," "Transamerica" Honored With Spirit Awards". indieWire. 5 March 2006. Retrieved 21 August 2012.
  22. ^ King, Susan (December 11, 2005). "L.A. Film Critics Honor 'Brokeback'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 28, 2017.
  23. ^ "2005 Archives". National Board of Review. Retrieved July 6, 2022.
  24. ^ "National Film Critics Vote 'Capote' Best". Los Angeles Times. January 8, 2006. Retrieved July 15, 2022.
  25. ^ King, Susan (December 13, 2005). "New York critics honor 'Brokeback Mountain'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 25, 2017.
  26. ^ "Dawson, Hoffman, Huffman and Linney Pick Up Satellite Awards". December 19, 2005. Retrieved July 6, 2022.
  27. ^ "Goldwyn and Sony Partner for "Squid and The Whale" Deal". IndieWire. February 9, 2005. Retrieved October 12, 2022.
  28. ^ "WGA Announces Nominees for Writers Guild Awards". IndieWire. January 4, 2006. Retrieved July 6, 2022.
  29. ^ "The Squid and the Whale & Running with Scissors". Mill Creek Entertainment.
  30. ^ "The Squid and the Whale". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved September 26, 2016.
  31. ^ Willman, Chris (March 21, 2006). "The Squid and the Whale". Retrieved October 12, 2022.

External links[edit]