The Squid and the Whale
A Brooklyn teenager (Jesse Eisenberg) and his brother (Owen Kline) cope with the divorce of their parents—a once-promising novelist whose books no longer sell (Jeff Daniels) and a neophyte writer (Laura Linney) just hitting it big—while the boys’ own hormones start to kick in. Writer-director Noah Baumbach’s film seems more than a little autobiographical (his parents are noted writers); in any event, it’s perceptive and stingingly funny, with first-rate performances. Regular-guy Daniels does a change-of-pace turn as a bloviating ass, humanizing his character in the process, and Eisenberg matches him in earning sympathy for a basically unlikable young man. Caught in the family crossfire are Anna Paquin as one of Daniels’ students and Halley Feiffer as Eisenberg’s girlfriend. J.L.