The complexities of relationships are the cornerstone of great filmmaking. The best writers can craft characters with enough tension, drama, and engagement they can just sit in a room and talk. Noah Baumbach penned and directed a simplistic approach to complex characters. Marriage Story shares the details of divorce between two imperfect people, Nicole and Charlie.
The Imperfect Couple
Scarlett Johansson stars with Adam Driver as an actress and stage director with one son, Henry, torn between New York and Los Angeles because of their divorce. The performances from Johansson and Driver honestly share the deconstruction of a relationship layer by layer. Their best scene is their fight in Charlie’s apartment when they realize divorce can never be clean and no one gets out unscathed. They have palpable chemistry and work well as two hot-headed people trying to do the right thing. This film feels less intimidating than other films about divorce as there is still love shared between the two characters that is as real as all the reasons they can no longer be together.
The World of Baumbach
The script included every pause and beat and little moment. Baumbach is the writer/director who knows what he wants. There is little room for improvisation so every gesture is purposeful and intentional. The only note to share about this film is that it doesn’t leave the entertainment bubble. Baumbach’s film can feel pretentious to those of us less in love with New York City and the theater. West Coasters don’t appreciate a belittling of their lifestyle as choice lesser than that of a city dweller in a five-floor walk-up. The greater conversation of the film is a competition between film and TV work against theater. One may be greater than the other, but it’s hard to pitch in a movie that theater rules the day.
This film could be a play, though. Few sets and void of grandeur, the story is simple enough to be placed on a stage and not lose any impact. Therein lies its success as a film, too. Within the complexity of character, the lack of detail or connection to much of the outside world makes the story feel self-contained. It is a singular Marriage Story. Not comparing to others or saying it is easier or worse for these characters than others, but showcasing this version. With that said, the more common Netflix audience of young, maybe unmarried, no kids millennial may have a hard time relating.
The Oscar Race
The film has been nominated for Best Picture, appropriately so. Both Johansson and Driver, as well as divorce lawyer, Laura Dern, are nominated for Academy Awards. At this point, it is likely Laura Dern will win for Best Supporting Actress as she has won every award up til now. There are slim chances for Driver and Johansson to take Marriage Story to the Best Actor/Actress winners circle as other actors have been dominating. There also may be a holdback to give a major award to Kylo Ren and Black Widow, but who knows.
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