Damson - What we're watching #27
Marriage Story is a very, very good movie, but it can not be over-exaggerated just how incredible the cast are.
Noah Baumbach has managed to assemble a cast of actors that embody their characters so well, that after watching it's difficult to imagine them in any other role. That in itself is a hell of an achievement, seeing as one is in the Star Wars universe, one in the Avengers universe and another has been in the Jurassic Park franchise.
On the surface, "Marriage Story" is a drama/comedy about two exes trying to stay friends and keep life as straight forward as possible moving forward for their child, Henry.
By the time "Marriage Story" starts, the relationship is already over. Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) and Charlie (Adam Driver) are seeing a mediator/therapist in the hope that they get some help in transitioning from a married family to separate lives, without causing Henry too much disruption. Nicole and Charlie think of themselves as mature adults who can "consciously-uncouple" in the way they want. Soon enough, the extent of hostilities and resentment between them starts to bubble to the surface.
Both Nicole and Charlie are in the "arts". Charlie is a slightly hipster/pretentious Brooklyn based theatre director and is incredibly well respected in the industry. Nicole is the lead actress in the drama troupe that Charlie runs. She's originally from California and has acted in movies, but gave all of that up to be with Charlie in New York. The tension starts to rise when Nicole is offered a part in a TV drama back in California.
The moment the lawyers come on the scene, things get tricky. And expensive. The lawyers, played by Alan Alda, Ray Liotta, and the incredible Laura Dern are all spectacular in their roles. All three are sympathetic and understanding. As one of them puts it: "Divorce lawyers see good people at their worst". Baumbach makes it very clear that divorce is a messy and expensive business.
It's the raw nature of the performances that really make "Marriage Story" work. The clear intent is to show that the dynamics of ending a marriage are just as significant as maintaining one. Baumbach tackles the material with a mixture of humour and absurdity.
This was rightly lauded as one of the best movies of 2019. That sort of high praise is absolutely deserved. While there are the obvious comparisons to "Kramer VS Kramer" (another movie that dealt with divorce, this is a wholly original take on the subject.
In spite of the bleak subject matter, the movie does feel overall redemptive and not despairing. If you think it may be a bit of a depressing watch, don't be put off. You won't regret spending a few hours watching this.
March 21, 2020