The fourth and easily the best film from writer-director Noah Baumbach opens with a game of tennis that soon devolves into something more ferocious: the end of the marriage of Bernard (Jeff Daniels) and Joan Berkman (Laura Linney). Joan loathes Bernard, a once-successful novelist now resting on crumbling laurels, and Bernard loathes Joan for her desire to become a writer when he's clearly the writer in the family. Baumbach is meant to be represented here by 16-year-old Walt (Jesse Eisenberg), a fuckup as shallow and scarred as his old man; also present, though often ignored, is 12-year-old Frank (Owen Kline), a little boy forced into adulthood by parents who act like children. The Squid and the Whale is one of those remarkable movies that erects no barrier between filmmaker and audience. It is just what it is: a grown-up's version of his lousy fucking childhood, and not once does Baumbach ask for your sympathy, just your attention for 90 minutes that you're happy to spare.
Director: Noah Baumbach
Writer: Noah Baumbach
Producer: Wes Anderson, Peter Newman, Charlie Corwin and Clara Markowicz
Cast: Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Jesse Eisenberg, Owen Kline, Halley Feiffer, Anna Paquin, William Baldwin, Alexandra Daddario, Eli Gelb and Henry Glovinsky