Marriage Story (2019)
”You liked this life until you decided you hated it”
Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story is an unfiltered look into life after happily ever after. What happens when the life you want with a person and the life you have are at opposite ends of a spectrum?
Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) are an artistic married couple living in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with their son Henry. Their marriage has reached an impasse. Charlie being an acclaimed director and Nicole an actor, it seems the roles in their relationship mirror the roles they play in their professional life. Nicole feels like she can never be herself and fully express her hopes and dreams, she can only live her life under Charlie’s direction.
Charlie, attempting to put on the life jacket when the ship has already sunk, is oblivious to the problems that plague their marriage. When Nicole’s sister played by Merritt Wever (who is surprisingly delightful on-screen) serves him the official divorce papers, he somehow does not see it coming. We don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
ScarJo does a fantastic job as a vulnerable woman whose life has been shaken to its core. Beginning the movie with a lively dance sequence, Nicole is the woman who clearly brings light to other people’s existence. By the time her marriage comes to a close, her light is at a dull glow. Laura Dern and Ray Liotta, the cut-throat divorce lawyers, are big names with little roles. Though they manage to steal every scene they’re in. Laura Dern goes full-on Renata Klein with her monologue on our Judeo-Christian culture that allows men to live full lives as absent fathers while women aren’t allowed the same transgressions.
When Charlie and Nicole let it all out in a huge blowout, the grievances they’ve kept to themselves through 10 years of marriage, is probably my favorite scene in the movie. Reminiscent of Frank and April Wheeler in Revolutionary Road, the couple holds no punches as they list every detail that they abhor about the other. Adam Driver punching the wall in what felt like slow motion was pure gold.
The premise of Marriage Story is the story of a breakup where both parties are right and wrong at the same time. If you enjoy movies like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or The Breakup, then Marriage Story is probably worth a watch. If nothing else, you’ll get to pretend Nicole and Charlie are just Jessa and Adam from HBO’s Girls 10 years down the line.