In a November 4, 2005, review of The Squid and the Whale, Roger Ebert was definitely on a roll. Talking about one character's disturbing decent into the joys of masturbation, he expresses the opinion that he wishes they'd quoted the Rodney Dangerfield line, "When I was a kid we were so poor, if I hadn't been a boy, I wouldn't have had anything to play with."
The last part of the plot summary reads:
Bernard, the father, published a good novel some years earlier and is now in a protracted drought season. It doesn't help when his wife sells a story to The New Yorker. He is played by Daniels as a man with wise-guy literary opinions, which his son remembers and repeats; Bernard says A Tale of Two Cities is "minor Dickens," which is correct, and arms Walt with useful terms such as "Kafkaesque." Walt informs Sophie a book is Kafkaesque and Sophie says, "It's written by Franz Kafka. It has to be." Point, match and game. Walt's performance in the school talent show is a great success. Everyone is impressed by his songwriting ability except for a fellow student familiar with the lyrics of Pink Floyd. Life lesson: Okay to steal from your father to impress people, not okay to steal from Pink Floyd.
The Squid and the Whale is essentially about how we grow up by absorbing what is useful in our parents and forgiving what is not. Joan may cheat on her husband, but he deserves to be cheated on, and she demonstrates a faith in romance that is, after all, a lesson in optimism. Bernard may be a gold mine of shorthand literary opinions, but, in his case, he has actually read the books, and sooner or later his son Walt will probably feel compelled to read minor Dickens for himself -- and major Dickens, which is so good all you can do is just helplessly stare at the book and turn the pages.
These kids will be okay. Someday Bernard and Joan will be old and will delight in their grandchildren, who will no doubt be miserable about the flaws and transgressions of Walt and Frank, and then create great achievements and angry children of their own. All I know is, it is better to be the whale than the squid. Whales inspire major novels.
Just LOVE those last two lines! I had the Netflix disc when I pulled up the review, and intended to watch it, but it wouldn't play.