Marriage Story: Film Review

I’m a big fan of Noah Baumbach films, as well as Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, so Marriage Story was the perfect combination for me and I’m pleased to report it really and truly delivers. Damn.

Nicole (Johansson), an actress, and Charlie (Driver), a theatre director, are the parents of an eight-year-old boy named Henry (Azhy Robertson). When they decide to separate, Nicole, who was born and raised in Los Angeles, leaves New York, where she lived while married to Charlie, to film a TV pilot in LA with Henry in tow. At first, they insist they will stay friends and sort things out without involving lawyers, but that doesn’t last long, particularly when Nicole decides she wants to stay in LA with Henry and hires cutthroat divorce lawyer Nora (Laura Dern).

Marriage Story is just staggering. It will emotionally resonate with you for hours after you’ve seen it. It is heartbreaking watching a couple going from being loving and supportive to ugly, petty and downright nasty, even though they always intended for the process to be amicable. But while it is devastating, it’s not a totally depressing watch, as it is filled with heart, love and heaps of humour. Marriage Story finds this delicate balance between fun, comedic moments and crushingly sad, dramatic ones. I laughed out loud very hard quite a few times but then I also found myself clutching my chest because I was so moved. It really does blend the genres, with drama, comedy and even musical in there – watch out for Driver singing Sondheim’s Being Alive.

It’s obvious Baumbach – who shares one son with his actress ex-wife Jennifer Jason Leigh – is writing from a place of personal experience and it shows in the script. It feels so real and true. The screenplay is of the highest quality, as is the acting. The two leads give the most incredible performances. Johansson hasn’t been able to show off her dramatic abilities for some time now but she’s definitely still got it! She has to be part of the awards season conversation, like Driver. I found his performance the most moving. I just can’t deal with him crying.

They have excellent support too. Top of the list is Dern, who is really having a terrific few years. She is perfectly cast as the glam, sassy, no-nonsense divorce lawyer. She gives a speech about double standards that literally made the audience at Venice start clapping! I love her, she is fabulous. The late Alan Alda pops up as Charlie’s nice lawyer, who he eventually ditches in favour of cutthroat attorney Jay (Ray Liotta). Merritt Wever and Julie Hagerty, who play Nicole’s sister and mother, also deserve a mention because they are hilarious. Hagerty, in particular, cracked me right up.

Marriage Story really opens your eyes to the harsh reality of divorce. I preferred the first half of the film purely because it was light and easy, as the second half features some really petty and mean behaviour that is so, so infuriating to watch. It also starts to feel a little long towards the end.

I’m certain this is going to do very well this awards season. This is one of Baumbach’s best-ever films, especially in terms of screenplay, and features standout performances from Johansson, Driver and Dern. I want them all to get nominations!

Originally seen at the 2019 Venice Film Festival. In selected cinemas from 15th November, on Netflix on 6th December. 

Rating: 5/5

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  1. […] and needs to receive all the adapted awards (original screenplay has to be Noah Baumbach for Marriage Story, hands down). I’m not going to lie, I did struggle at times to follow what was going on […]

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