“Criminal lawyers see bad people at their best, divorce lawyers see good people at their worst”
Divorce is an often popular subject when it comes to film. You can take a look at Kramer vs Kramer, or Ingmar Bergman’s, Scenes from a Marriage. Or if you want something a little more lighthearted, you can pop in Mrs. Doubtfire. In this day and age, it’s hard to make a film, pertaining to this subject, feel new and fresh. There needs to be an element of uniqueness that sets it apart from the usual. Noah Baumbach’s, Marriage Story, does just that. Marriage Story follows a young couple, Nicole and Charlie, as they journey through the events of their dissolving marriage. What ensues is a real-life version of a couple at the end of their ropes, using all means to gain primary custody of their son Henry, only to throw each other into a chaotic spiral.
The performances from Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, as they play this former married couple, are being revered as some of the best performances that either one has ever done. Johansson is no newbie to exquisite acting. Her career has been building and building, leading her to complex character after complex character. Her performance of Nicole is similar in complexity, but different in the gut-wrenching emotions that Johansson is able to exemplify. Nicole is the one who proceeds with the divorce after her past, and the opportunities she turned down, begins to create a resentment. Is she truly living her best life? All the meanwhile, Charlie’s life is simultaneously turned upside down. An Avant Garde, New York playwright who travels across the country to handle divorce proceedings, and to see his son. Driver is brilliant as Charlie, and the more standout performance between himself and Johansson. Most known for his “Dark Side” villain, Kylo Ren, Driver digs deep into his soul for this one. Everything Charlie feels, you feel at the same time. The anger, the hurt, all combine to make Driver deliver an award winning performance.
But who are these two characters, really? We see this marriage falling apart, but in no way is there a clear villain in the marriage. Baumbach takes no sides, thus, leaving that for you to decide. Marriage Story doesn’t shy away from the tragedy that surrounds divorce. For no one is really a winner, especially when a child is involved. Baumbach’s perception of divorce only becomes more complex when Henry gets dragged in the middle. The custody issue only forces Nicole and Charlie to sink their claws into one another. But what Marriage Story does so well is to combine real-life situations, and that of a creative story. A true example of “life imitating art.”
Sometimes it’s hard to separate a piece like Marriage Story from its creator. Baumbach’s personal dealings with divorce flows through the pages of the script and onto the screen, making for a more heartbreaking film. All the elements involved perfectly come together to make a genius work like this. And though some may look at this film and see nothing but an array of sloppy crying and yelling, which I can understand, I can’t rate Marriage Story anything short of an absolute knockout.
Written and Directed by: Noah Baumbach
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Ray Liotta, Azhy Robertson, Merritt Wever, Julie Hagerty, and Laura Dern