MARRIAGE STORY
(***˝)

"...a strong and impactful feature that is not always easy to watch"

Some of the Year's Finest Performances/Dialogue

(121419) Marriage Story is a potent melodrama about the tragic dissolution of a marriage. The film has already won several major awards (including six Golden Globes), and it is being marketed as a potential Oscars best picture contender.

The director, Noam Baumbach was divorced from his then actress/wife in 2013 who was also in theatre. It seems likely that Baumbach based the screenplay at least partially on their experiences. Baumbach is a superb screenplay writer, a fine director and a talented sometimes collaborator (often working with the hipster directing God, Wes Anderson.) He is known for directing highly personal indie films that rely on ensemble casts such as The Squid and the Whale (2005), Margot at the Wedding (2007), and Meyerowitz Stories (2018), which actually contained a decent Adam Sandler performance.

Personally, I think Marriage Story falls short of being a full-fledged masterpiece or the best film of the year, but it is undeniably well written, and it contains some of the best moments and performances of 2019.
The film may just take home some Oscars for best screenplay or a best acting award. Marriage Story also probably represents artistic peaks so far of both of its two lead actors.

Marriage Story stars Scarlett Ingrid Johansson, who is probably best known to most movie viewers for playing the Black Widow (with sadly no Russian accent) in the Avengers films, and she is slated to reprise the role in an upcoming solo superhero film.

While she was convincing in the role of Natasha Romanoff, she delivered much finer performances in smaller films such as Ghost World (2001), The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001), Lost in Translation (2003), Under the Skin (2013), and Vicky Christina Barcelona (2013). So far, she been able to balance her dual careers as a superstar actor and indie icon quite effectively.

Adam Driver has a resume that is almost as impressive. He played Kylo Ren in three Star Wars films, but he gave much more daring performances in Paterson and Silence (both in 2013), and Meyerowitz Stories (2018) in which he previously worked for the Baumbach.

The actors playing the attorneys, Laura Dern, Ray Liotta and Alan Alda) are also effective and their characters’ contrasting lawyering styles help keep our attention. The characters also function to dramatically motivate the trajectory of the two divorcing partner’s relationship.

Driver plays Charlie, an idealistic director of avant-garde theater who is devoted to both his career and his family, but maybe a little more to his career. Johannsson is his wife; Nicole has been content with playing a supportive role in her husband’s career. Now she wants a stake in her own territory, and she wants to split with her husband to do a TV show, which is set in LA, far from the couple’s home in New York. Her husband disapproves of the show and seems to think it is beneath her.

The greatest aspect of the film is the devastating dialogue exchanges between the two main characters, which always hint at more than what they are literally saying. By the time we see the complete implied history of the couple and hints of the future, the collapse of the marriage seems to be as inevitable as the credits.

In addition, it is shocking to see the two decent, loving romantic partners increasingly turn nasty, and do and say more horrible things against each other. The film might be a bit too much like real life for some filmgoers.

The main criticism I have of the movie (which some might find trivial) is that the film is not particularly cinematic, and it never fully explores the potential of the camera. Baumbach’s direction never quite rises to the level of his writing, and the story would have been just as good if not better as a play.

Still, Marriage Story is a strong and impactful feature that is not always easy to watch. Although, it ends up being painful and a bit excruciating, but it succeeds admirably in capturing the hell of a failing relationship.
 

Directed & Written by:   Noam Baumbach
Starring:   Scarlet Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern
Released:   12/06/2019
Length:   136 minutes
Rating:   Rated R for language and sexual references

For more writings by Vittorio Carli go to www.artinterviews.org
and www.chicagopoetry.org plus look for his recent book Tape Worm Salad with Olive Oil for Extra Flavor.

Vittorio Carli is the narrator of a new movie titled The Last Hippie Freak which recently played in Canada and will soon be streamed online. To see a preview go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWQf-UruQyw

MARRIAGE STORY  © 2019 Heyday Films
Review © 2019 Alternate Reality, Inc.