This film is a model of cinematic perfection. There’s not one wasted scene, one bad performance, or one false note. It all feels so heartbreakingly real and raw and honest. Noah Baumbach can sometimes be, especially in his earlier, darker films, an emotional sadist in disguise, and in The Squid and the Whale, he crafted one of the most painfully hilarious films I’ve ever seen. This is a work that I view at least once a year because it’s just so effortlessly brilliant, with an  acting ensemble that totally crushes the emotionally scarring material, and air-tight direction from Baumbach who clearly knew this story inside and out. Rumor has it that some of this script was informed by his real life upbringing, which if true, paints an even more distressing portrait of an artist working out his inner personal demons through his craft. Jeff Daniels was such a smart casting decision as the asshole father that it almost hurts to think about him in this film — he’s a monumental prick. Laura Linney was icy and incisive, painting a portrait of a woman fed up with all around her, longing for something that feels ever so slightly out of reach. Jesse Eisenberg as their oldest son was hugely effective here, and had terrific chemistry with Owen Kline, who played his fragile and damaged younger brother. The joke of casting William Baldwin as the tennis pro/lover to Linney was a stroke of comic genius (“My brother!” POWER), and the way Baumbach loaded every single scene with hostility, anger, and unexpected humor should be studied by all who are interested in black comedy and familial satire. This is a 100 Star Gem and a film that you should immediately track down if you’re unfamiliar. It is a masterpiece of filmmaking and storytelling.

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