Marriage Story - 2019
Updated: Apr 26
Well, Marriage Story has officially turned me off marriage...although I don't think that was its purpose.
This film is beautifully written, beautifully acted and beautifully filmed. It's the kind of movie that creates a fly on the wall effect for those who watch. The characters are real and believable; they are people that you know, or sometimes they are you. Essentially, as an audience, you continue to watch, not for some overarching task that needs to be accomplished or mystery that requires solving, but because you want to know more about these characters and how or why this chapter in their lives is coming to a close. It is however, important to note that this isn't necessarily a sad story. This film really projects that cliche` sentiment, that we should be glad that it happened, rather than sad that it's over.
The film begins with Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) introducing each other through off-screen monologues, that are accompanied by supporting visuals. This orientation really sets the tone for the entire film and alerts audience members to the fact that if anything, this film is an honest look at human relationships. It's both nice and necessary to be introduced to the protagonists this way, as it reminds us that although their relationship is ending, it did start with love. Of course, after this introduction, we are launched into what follows: the subsequent end of their marriage.
Both Driver and Johansson deliver incredible performances. It's hard to look away. Additionally, there isn't a lot of room for them to hide. At times the monologues/duologues are long and the camera doesn't always cut. There are some lengthy takes (particularly when Nicole tells her story to Nora). It's also noticeable that the production design is sometimes simplistic in nature, so there isn't a lot to be distracted by in the hard-hitting moments. There is Driver and there is Johansson and there are a lot of emotions and that's what we focus on. It helps us to emotionally invest. I guess honest and raw are the words I feel I should use...but that also feels hackneyed and gross. If you are going to watch this film though, the acting will impress. Let's leave it at that.
It's more than just Driver and Johansson, though. Let's talk about the supporting cast. Laura Dern. What a woman! What an actress! In everything she does, Dern is awesome. She is also awesome in this. It's un-Dern-iable. Also, Wallace Shawn's appearance in this film is inconceivable! Yes, you got me. This whole paragraph is a joke paragraph. Except for everything I've said about Laura Dern...
Finally, the script is realism at its finest. Noah Baumbach must have a really good eye and ear for people. I truly can't believe that something so honest was written by one person. In saying that, all that honesty and truth and realism is a lot to take on board. I only cried at the end, but I was emotionally invested the whole way through. At the start, I was internally screaming at Charlie and Nicole to communicate and by the climax I realised it was way past that point.
This is a film that made me think, empathise, understand and experience a whole range of realisations and emotions. I don't think I will ever be compelled to watch this film again, however I also don't think I'll need to. This one will have a lasting impression.