Dir; Noah Baumbach. Starring; Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Laura Dern. R. Color. 136 min.
I am going to speak straight from the heart about “Marriage Story”. I found myself nearly hyperventilating as I cried when the credits rolled. Yes, I am an overly dramatic person so do not expect to have the same reaction of course. But my god is this an amazing “Story” about what could have been and how you deal with the aftermath.
The plot is simple. Adam Driver plays Charlie, a successful yet pretentious play write in New York. His wife Nicole (Scarlett Johansson), was a jobbing actress in L.A. when the two met and she left her life to be with the perfect genius in her mind and he married the beautiful actress who can play mom easy in his mind. Unfortunately the cover is not always the truth in life. So we begin with the high point of Charlie and Nicole’s story, the divorce!
After spending years living in New York working for her director husband in an off broadway playhouse while also doing the bulk of raising their young son Henry (Azhy Robertson), Nicole wants to go back to Hollywood to pursue her acting career in television. Charlie hates L.A. and wants to stay in New York. He is also sleeping with another actress from his play that Nicole starred in. Both characters are crazy in completely different ways but share multiple personality quirks such as egotism, masochism, and off screen drug/alcohol abuse-ism.
Nicole returns to her hometown of Los Angeles to stay with her mother Beth (Mickey Sumner), who is clearly on some type of prescription drugs and a fan of botox. Beth welcomes Charlie with open arms when he visits because he’s ‘such a great guy’ in her eyes. Charlie comes into the house like nothing is wrong when Nicole awkwardly presents him with a summons for divorce. Yay! Then the real battle begins. The battle for Henry and who gets him.
Now it is time to lawyer up, and writer/director Noah Baumbach makes this phase of divorce comical in his dry sense of humor way. Nicole, moving her way up in L.A. society, hires Nora (Laura Dern), the embodiment of what you would picture a person the Kardashians hire for a lawsuit over a plastic surgery debacle. Charlie lawyers up himself, first going to Jay Marotta (a hilarious Ray Liotta). He’s a no bullshit f-you pay me kind of scumbag. It is not in Charlie’s heart to hire a scumbag, at least in the beginning, until things get really ugly.
The combination of small moments of unforced humor with genuine grief and awkward life stuff is what makes “Marriage Story” so good. An early divorce hearing in which Charlie doesn’t know what to order for lunch so Nicole grabs the menu and still knows what to order for him. Charlie being observed by a court appointed counselor as he tries to cook dinner on one of his nights with his son. Henry having to go trick-or-treating twice on Halloween. Nicole having a sexual encounter after a Hollywood style party and being real, and I emphasize REAL, awkward about it.
What had me burst into tears was a scene between the two leads when Nicole visits Charlie’s rental house in L.A. as he is still fighting for custody rights for Henry. Both Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson deserve Oscar nominations for that scene alone. Awkwardness, anger, pain and ultimately love are showcased within the span of a few minutes. It is one of the most genuine depictions of those arguments that stick with you forever.
“Marriage Story” hit me in a very tough way. I have been on both sides of this coin, kind of. I grew up through my parents divorce and it was certainly not pretty. Arguments over where I spend Christmas night aren’t exactly ideal. As an adult I went through what was not technically a divorce because we never made it official but basically was and the process of splitting up possessions and animals we both loved. It sucks when it doesn’t work out the way it should have. While yes the film is about rich-ish characters, “Marriage Story” is relatable on every level to anyone who has been in a long term relationship that did not stick. Nobody is the victim or perpetrator. But for whatever reason life got in the way.
Suck Factor: 0out of 7 (7 means your movie really SUCKS!)
Written by Byrd
The SUCK FACTOR, how it works. We have flipped the rating system upside down. If a film is classic, it gets a 0. Meaning that movie has 0 SUCKS. If a film is complete trash you must avoid at all costs, it gets a 7, meaning this movie really SUCKS!