Led by two quite effective leads in Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson, Baumbach’s film about the perils of marriage and the pain of divorce has moments to savour.
Dir. Noah Baumbach
2019 | USA | Drama | 137 mins | 1.66:1 | English
M18 (passed clean) for language throughout and sexual references
Cast: Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Laura Dern
Plot: An incisive and compassionate look at a marriage breaking up and a family staying together.
Awards: Nom. for Golden Lion (Venice); Won 1 Oscar – Best Supporting Actress & Nom. for 5 Oscars – Best Picture, Best Leading Actor, Best Leading Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Score
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
There has been much more awards buzz for Noah Baumbach’s second film for Netflix, than his The Meyerowitz Stories (2017), which aired to little fanfare amid the Cannes-Netflix controversy.
Nominated for six Oscars including Best Picture, Marriage Story is a polished film with strong dialogue that charts the decline of a marriage as it careens into the pain of divorce.
Led by two quite effective leads in Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson, who play the couple (Charlie and Nicole) in question, Baumbach’s work channels the well-developed chemistry between the two actors into a picture of raw honesty and tender moments.
“Criminal lawyers see bad people at their best, divorce lawyers see good people at their worst.”
Laura Dern, who plays Nicole’s assertive lawyer, appears to have good odds to win her first acting Oscar, but her characterisation isn’t memorable enough to me. In fact, Driver and Johansson also give excellent performances, but their characters aren’t exactly what I would remember either from the film.
Perhaps there’s an issue with Baumbach’s approach to filming the story that renders it uncinematic. Its staged quality does reflect the spirit of theatre (also a plot point), but there is something too calibrated about the whole endeavour.
Marriage Story is a good film, but I feel it is a tad overrated. It did lead me to think about the perils of marriage though (and why I absolutely enjoy singlehood right now…).
Under the hands of a more poetic and cinematic filmmaker, say the likes of Todd Haynes or Barry Jenkins, Baumbach’s incisive screenplay would have been made more than just functional.