A cynical teenager, backpack slung over one shoulder, sighs to his buddy who’s just announced his parents’ divorce: “Joint custody blows.” So begins The Squid and the Whale, the Kramer vs. Kramer for our time. It tells the story of a divorce not from the adults’ point of view—a glamorous Meryl Streep and intense Dustin Hoffman revealing their pain—but from the children’s. The parents in Squid are portrayed by Laura Linney and Jeff Daniels, first-rate actors cast as utterly unattractive divorcing parents. They are consumed by their own rage and allow much of it to spill over onto their children.
Set in the 1980s in Brooklyn’s Park Slope and directed by 36-year old Noah Baumbach, himself a child of divorce, the movie reveals the painful reality of 16-year-old Walt and 12-year-old Frank (played poignantly by Jesse Eisenberg and Owen Kline), who grapple with their parents’ breakup amid tortured explorations of their emerging sexual selves.