Noah Baumbach’s best film of the decade deals with divorce in a sincere way
Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver star as a married couple, who suffer through a coast-to-coast divorce that reminds you of “Kramer vs Kramer.” Actually, it’s more of an autobiographical film that Noah Baumbach wrote reflecting on his divorce with Jennifer Jason Leigh. He writes and directs the characters and situations with such complications and struggles that they end up winning your hearts and your funny bones.
Johansson is Nicole, an actress, who went from TV to Broadway and back to TV again, because she is filming a pilot episode. So, in the meantime, she crashes with her finicky mother (Julie Hagerty) in Los Angeles.
And Driver is Charlie, a stage director, who has to travel back and forth from New York to LA to deal with the divorce and his upcoming production. He even has trouble understanding the rules and regulations of lawyers. They have to be in the same area, they have limits, etc. He eventually adapts.
The lawyers they respectively find are quite whimsical. Laura Dern is languorously hilarious as Nicole’s lawyer, who dresses all attractive, while representing her client; Alan Alda has a sweetness in him as Charlie’s lawyer, who went from presenting stars to families; and Ray Liotta kills it as his back-up lawyer, who’s more persistent than the other.
The soon-to-be divorced couple have an 8-year-old son named Henry (Azhy Robertson from “Juliet, Naked”), whom they’re fighting for custody of. He has scenes where he struggles to read, gets picky with his Halloween costumes on whose to wear-mom or dads-and has a better connection with Nicole than Charlie. Typical kid stuff, but this isn’t at all typical.
“Marriage Story” keeps audiences in their seats, as they adapt to the couple’s marital problems and what they intend to do about them. Nicole sees Charlie more obsessed with his own work than his own family, and at the same time, he wants to help raise the boy.
Their relationship doesn’t go berserk. In fact, they’re able ease the tension, leading up to an unforgettable fight scene that allows them to express their emotions. There are laughs, there is anger, and there is true power written for them by Baumbach.
The real power of the film’s comedy is honesty. Each joke isn’t just random or forced. They’re consistent, and they morph into the drama, ergo making them sometimes dark humor. I won’t spoil anything, but I will tell you: there’s a knife moment that left the audience and myself rolling in the aisles.
Once more, the reality of marriage and divorce presented here is based on Baumbach’s own experiences, and even if this is autobiographical, he doesn’t hold back the characters. He gives them their ambitions and struggles-more about the locations and lawyers than about money. This is a real character study, and we love these people.
This is not only the last movie Baumbach has made in the 2010s, given that we’re near the end of 2019, but it’s also his most distinguished entry of the decade. Don’t miss. It’s brilliant.
In Select Theaters November 1
On Netflix December 6