Set in Brooklyn in the 1980s, The Squid and the Whale tells the story of a marital break-up and its impact on the children. Jeff Daniels plays Bernard, a somewhat insufferably superior literature professor and decreasingly successful novelist, married to Joan (Laura Linney), a more successful writer but with her own insecurities. The parents bicker constantly, even while they play doubles tennis with their sons, the teenaged Walt and the "tween" Frank. The parents decide to separate, with Joan staying in the family home and Bernard moving to a dilapidated house "across the park". Custody - of the kids, and even of the family cat - is shared between the two parents. Walt and Frank have already taken sides. Walt emulates his father's superior attitudes about film and literature, and parrots them to his girlfriend. Frank prefers the warmth of his mother. But each parent seems equally unequipped for parenthood. At one point, Bernard takes his two young sons to see the adult-oriented film, "Blue Velvet". Joan has an ongoing affair with Frank's tennis teacher (endearingly played by William Baldwin), who is clearly not sophisticated or accomplished enough to meet Bernard's exacting standards.
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Each son has his own dysfunctional way of dealing with the breakup. Walt decides to perform a song in the school talent contest, but, unbeknownst to his parents or (initially) to the contest judges, he has plagiarized the song from Pink Floyd. Frank, meanwhile, starts to swear violently, drink beer regularly, and masturbate in the school library, leaving traces of his activities on books and lockers around the school. The parents seem unequipped to recognize their childrens' dysfunctions, or to deal with them. Bernard offers to rent a room to one of his attractive female students, and in short order sleeps with her, unaware of Walt's infatuation with the same young woman. And Joan heads off for a romantic weekend with her tennis instructor boyfriend, leaving Frank alone (and forgotten by his father) at home.
While Walt has sided with his father in this story, the son remains nostalgic for a time when he and his mother went together on trips to the Museum of Natural History. He recalls fondly, and with the fear of a young child, the oversized replicas of a giant squid fighting a whale in one of the rooms of the museum. The film ends ambiguously without closure for any of the protagonists.
The review of this Movie prepared by Jan Arata