In his third feature, director Noah Baumbach scores a triumph with an autobiographical coming-of-age story about a teenager whose writer-parents are divorcing. The father (Jeff Daniels) and mother (Laura Linney) duke it out in half-civilized, half-savage fashion, while their two sons adapt in different ways, shifting allegiances between parents. The film is squirmy-funny and nakedly honest about the rationalisations and compensatory snobbisms of artistic failure as wellias the conflicted desires of adolescents for sex and status. In detailing bohemian-bourgeois life in brownstone Brooklyn, Baumbach is spot on; everyone proceeds from good intentions and acts rather badly, in spite or because of their manifest intelligence...
- The Squid and the Whale review by Kurtz
An unflinching and at times darkly comic portrayal of the break-up of a family of American intellectuals, this is Laura Linney territory and she is excellent as ever as the wife who has outgrown her pompous loser of a husband. Jeff Daniels is brilliant in this role, creating an appallingly petty character full of bitterness over the absence of the literary success he feels he deserves, but still winning a few shreds of sympathy for the indignities he suffers. The kids are hapless bystanders in this conflict, but they are convincing too, especially Jesse Eisenberg’s “daddy clone”, who nails just the right combination of arrogance and insecurity. Just like in real life, no-one is completely at fault for the break-up, and no-one is completely innocent; the family just seem to have got to the end of their time together. Not a bundle of laughs, but beautifully done.