Review: Marriage Story

Writer/Director: Noah Baumbach
Marriage Story is showing at the Historic Theater January 2 – January 8

Typically, I only write reviews for the Oscar Best Film nominees. This review is coming out early because I can’t stand the idea of anyone missing this film and I’m placing a real bet that Marriage Story will receive AT LEAST 4 nominations. I’ll apologize to you personally if I’m wrong. (I won’t be.)

Marriage Story is actually not a story about marriage but instead a story about the dissolving of a marriage. The film is about Charlie, a savant theatre director, and Nicole, an actress, who go through the process of their divorce. It is heartbreaking and funny, uncomfortable and charming all at the same time. One of the pitfalls of a story about a breakup is that it portrays characters at their worst. Characters out to get one another and constantly fighting don’t create anything for the audience to root for. Writer/Director Noah Baumbach instead chose to open with Charlie and Nicole listing the things they appreciate and love about one another. This allows the audience the chance to view them as good people who really did love each other before the divorce. You, the audience, are in this breakup with them because you see the good and the bad. You hear both sides and you witness proof of the good and bad. The divorce begins as amicable yet uncomfortable as you can imagine, but pretty soon a desire to move to LA and some high-powered divorce attorneys make any hope for a clean split impossible.

Not every second of the film is painful. Brilliant moments of laughter are peppered in to give the audience’s heart a break. Merritt Weaver as Nicole’s sister is brilliant (and should be cast in everything) and Martha Kelly as Nancy the Evaluator deserves an award for the most awkward scene partner ever. The lead actors Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson are given a lot to work with and they eat it all up. They chew on the moments of discomfort that anyone who has been through a breakup identifies with yet gift the audience with scenes of intense vulnerability. The intensity of their anger is there without all the yelling. So much so that it seems too calm until we are given a heart-racing 10-minute this-is-my-Oscar clip blow-up fight. Divorced people I’ve heard speak about this film often discuss how raw and truthful it is which often opens some old wounds. This film may have you questioning if love is worth it but I can’t recommend it highly enough. Go and soak it in. Soak in Merritt Weaver, Martha Kelly, and Adam Driver’s lip quiver as he reads his letter. You can thank me later.