“Marriage Story” is a film about the parts of a marriage that many who enter that world of matrimony never think they will have to deal with: the collapse of the relationship.
I don’t know if the term “child of divorce” applies to me because I was a teenager when my parents split up and at that time, as I had been living with one of my friends for a few years at that point. When I watch a film about divorce, I sometimes feel I don’t connect to it, because I wasn’t around for the actual divorce, but I was there for all the moments leading up to it.
Director Noah Baumbach immaculately paints a portrait of the good times between Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johannson) in this domestic drama – now on Netflix. But while the twinge of melancholy is there in the beginning, you can tell the relationship is about to unravel and that is where this movie truly shines.
Baumbach puts a lot of his personal pain into this film, drawing on his own divorce with actress Jennifer Jason Leigh as Charlie is a theater director and Nicole is an actress who was mostly known for her early role in a teen comedy (like Leigh in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High). He doesn’t make it a one-sided affair that many domestic dramas tend to do, though.
It is easy to compare this movie to the Academy Award-winning “Kramer vs. Kramer,” with posters of the two films looking similar, but “Marriage Story” gives a full story to both sides of the divorce. One of the main critiques of “Kramer vs. Kramer” is Meryl Streep’s character was portrayed as a villain and almost unreal. You will find no such problem with this movie.
Charlie and Nicole, who are fighting for custody over their son Henry, don’t hate each other, but they don’t love each other anymore. There are times when they feel like yelling out of spite and getting into fights. There are also moments where they steal a glance and feel a little remorse for what happened, but the truth is there in black and white, they just don’t know what to do.
People always say divorce is messy, and it is, but it isn’t always one side against the other, forever angry. There are in-laws choosing sides, lawyers who only want to win, a kid who doesn’t know who to pick and also, the constantly evolving relationship between the two former lovers.
Driver and Johannson portray these roles to a “T.” While Driver is at points given the treatment of a father who just wants to be with his kid while his soon-to-be ex-wife’s lawyer (Laura Dern), just doesn’t seem to care, he also has faults that you can see why Nicole is divorcing him.
Same with Nicole, most movies will make it seem like the person who files the divorce is blameless, but she has issues with her own family that she doesn’t know how to resolve and doesn’t know how to feel most days about what this divorce is doing to Henry and Charlie.
The two leads in this movie are phenomenal. Driver has become one of my favorite actors through his work the past few years and he does an incredible job of just being raw in this film, playing Charlie with true emotion.
Johannson – who I thought was the best part of “JoJo Rabbit” – feels a bit underappreciated nowadays because how solid she has been for two decades now. It is easy to forget how hard it is to play some of her roles with an openness and truthfulness that would come across as acting to other celebrities but seems so natural to her.
In supporting roles, Dern has a great role, as well as Alan Alda as Driver’s initial lawyer. Ray Liotta in another lawyer role seems a bit too cartoonish for a movie that thrives on realness, though.
The film altogether is great, but in one of the best scenes of the year, Johannson and Driver have one of the most honest marital fights I have seen on a screen, and that is coming from someone who has seen plenty of them myself growing up.
“Marriage Story” might be a story, but it can almost feels real because of the performances, the writing, and the intimate cinematography.
Rating: R for language throughout and sexual references
My score: 95/100
Jordan Bishop is the assistant news editor at the Stillwater News Press and can be reached at email@example.com.