One does not have to get further into Marriage Story (2019) than the opening introductions of its two main characters to realize it was going to be something special. Noah Baumbach’s later films have worked more for me than some of his earlier ones, leading me to believe we were different people when younger, but maybe have come to some of the same conclusions as we have matured with age. His newest film is available to watch on Netflix, and it is one you 100% should check out before you lose access to it in the divorce, as you move to other streaming services who tempt you with baby aliens.
Charlie (Adam Driver) introduced us to Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) by telling us what he loves about her. Then, we get to hear what Nicole loves about Charlie through a similar series that shows different perspectives of moments, and some original to the character. It’s a great way of giving us what we need to know about the two in this marriage that is now at its end, so we are able to be equally devastated as they go through the painful process of divorce.
Baumbach has always been good at crafting character – but I don’t think I’ve ever been more invested in both. I feel as though he paints both the husband and wife to be equally guilty and innocent in the demise of their once-happy marriage…but instead really uses the system, as the films a major source of conflict. Nora (Laura Dern) is Nicole’s lawyer, and she sets a harsh precedent for the impending divorce that Charlie was expecting to be very amicable, but now looks like it may be a total nightmare. He, in turn, finds Jay Marotta (Ray Liotta), who seems to be on par with Nora but opts for Bert Spitz (Alan Alda) for his more humanistic approach to the process. Still, Baumbach informs the audience of the struggle both genders face at the archaic system that seems to reinforce traditional gender roles – especially when it comes to their child, Henry (Azhy Robertson). Nicole is told that she has to be perfect as a mother, and Charlie must show he is trying to be involved as much as possible or risk losing his custody rights. It’s a messy nightmare of a process that seems to be executed quite well in this film.
Adam Driver should win the best actor award at the Oscar’s this year. We’ve seen him do amazing things over the years, and the types of roles he takes range greatly as he gets older. I was so impressed with his performance in this film, and the little things he does to give so much information to the audience. Scar-Jo is also continually impressive, as she does more and more daring roles outside of the MCU films. Both get some great monologues…in fact, so does Laura Dern, who is as outstanding as usual in her despicable lawyer role.
One of the things that I really loved about the film Marriage Story is the wide range of emotions I experienced while watching it. You may think that this film is going to be a two hour over the top drama that leaves you completely devastated, but that’s not Baumbach’s style. There is humor in real life, And what is really meant by the term drama – and this film is infused with it, and sometimes at moments you just wouldn’t expect. Martha Kelly plays a court-ordered evaluator who has to sit with Charlie and Henry. That scene is one of the funniest, partly because of Kelly’s stoic comedy – but moreso because of Driver and the circumstances that play out in the sequence.
Marriage Story is a film that you shouldn’t skip in 2019. It’s absolutely human in the best way that statement could mean. Baumbach wrote and directed what I think maybe his best film yet. If you are still subscribed to Netflix, then you are lucky that you have instant access to it. While you’re there, also take a moment to check out his film The Meyerowitz Stories (2017), which features great performances from Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler. Marriage Story earns the Must See rating.