Time: 136 Minutes
Age Rating: Offensive language & sexual references
Scarlett Johansson as Nicole Barber
Adam Driver as Charlie Barber
Laura Dern as Nora Fanshaw
Alan Alda as Bert Spitz
Ray Liotta as Jay Marotta
Azhy Robertson as Henry Barber
Julie Hagerty as Sandra
Merritt Wever as Cassie
Director: Noah Baumbach
A stage director (Adam Driver) and his actor wife (Scarlett Johansson) struggle through a gruelling, coast-to-coast divorce that pushes them to their personal and creative extremes.
I have heard of Marriage Story for a while, and there was much anticipation leading up to its release. I liked the few movies I’ve seen from writer/director Noah Baumbach, and the cast included Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson, so there was a lot of talent involved. However, I didn’t really know what to expect except that it was a movie about divorce and a lot of people were hyping it up. Marriage Story is definitely great and for sure worth seeing when you can.
The script by Noah Baumbach is greatly written, at 2 hours 15 minutes or so, Marriage Story is rather engaging. It’s a slower paced dialogue driven drama, I had an idea it would be that going in, and I liked it for what it is. So much of it feels real, from the dialogue to the story and some of the characters (even if it does throw in a few large monologues too). It doesn’t really side with either of the main characters Charlie (Adam Driver) or Nicole (Scarlett Johansson), it portrays both of them honestly, each with their own flaws. However I will say that it feels more like Charlie’s movie than Nicole’s, so Driver had a little more to work with. Side note but wondering about “whose fault it is” between the two is very counterproductive, and is not really a conversation worth having. I don’t know too much about the divorce process, but the movie at least felt like an accurate depiction of it. It showed glimpses of the process, as well as the effect it has on the two leads as well as their child. I should mention that yes, Marriage Story very much has replaced Kramer vs Kramer as the best movie about divorce. I heard going into this movie that it was emotionally devastating and all that. Excluding whether you can relate to it (whether first hand or second hand experience with relationships/divorce), it’s not really that sort of movie. It is a dramedy, while it can be sad in parts, it’s not a consistently depressing or heavy movie or anything, it’s really bittersweet at worst. There are some lighter parts, and plenty of genuinely humorous moments too. Ultimately it’s a hopeful movie, including the way that it ended (not spoiling anything). Not to mention that as far as divorces go, there have been a lot more unpleasant divorces in both fiction and reality than the one front and centre throughout Marriage Story. None of what I said is a tangent to flex about how I didn’t cry during the movie or anything, I’m just talking about what kind of movie it is. I will say though on that note, I wasn’t that emotionally connected to the story and characters. I was definitely invested in it as a movie but that was sort of it.
There is a great lineup of a cast, and they all do some great work here. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson give their best performances of their careers, as well as some of the best performances of the year. They felt incredibly raw and human, and while you don’t see a lot of them being together before the divorce (this is just shown in a brief montage), they have such great chemistry and you can believe that these two people were once in love. I’ve noticed people reposting and praising an argument scene between the two (there are a number of arguments but you’ll know which one I’m referring to), watching a couple minutes of it out of context doesn’t do it justice at all. The way it builds up to it and the context really gives it its impact, and both actors did very good jobs in that scene and the whole movie. The lawyers played by Laura Dern, Alan Alda and Ray Liotta also work well in their respective roles. Azhy Robertson is also good as Henry, the child of Charlie and Nicole, who’s caught in the middle of the divorce.
Noah Baumbach directed the movie well, particularly with the dialogue scenes. An example was a monologue by Scarlett Johansson in her first scene with Laura Dern, it’s uninterrupted and focuses on Johansson, letting the scene play out and allowing her performance to take up the focus. It’s a much more intimate and personal movie, and the direction certainly accompanies that, but it’s also edited very effectively. The score by Randy Newman was also quite good.
Marriage Story is really worth watching as soon as possible, it’s fantastically written, and features some excellent acting from its talented cast (particularly Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson). Whether you like Noah Baumbach or not, or if you have you seen his movies or not, check it out on Netflix if it’s not in a cinema near you.