This movie is so realistic that it felt like I was watching a fly-on-the-wall documentary about Black Widow and Kylo Ren getting a divorce.
Starring Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Laura Dern, Ray Liotta, and Alan Alda, ‘Marriage Story’ is the latest film from acclaimed filmmaker Noah Baumbach.
It follows a stage director and his actor wife as they struggle through a messy divorce and the custody of their young child.
‘Marriage Story’ is a movie that I didn’t have on my radar until about three, maybe four weeks ago. All I knew was that it starred Adam Driver (who happens to be one of my favourite actors working today), Scarlett Johansson, and there’s an argument scene in it that has basically started another war on Twitter. I went into this blind, and my god was I blown away.
Firstly, I have to talk about the performances, which are some of the best I’ve ever seen! I’ll start with Scarlett Johansson who gives what is her best performance yet. Johansson lays everything on the table and delivers an emotionally charged performance as this woman who doesn’t want to make the divorce hard on both her and her husband, but through lawyers, it just gets worse. She manages to hold her own against the other actors in the film and proves why she can do so much more than be in superhero movies. Easily the best performance I’ve seen from her.
Then there is Adam Driver, who is as fantastic as always. Like Johansson, this is an emotionally charged performance and drives him to his limits in terms of acting. There are so many moments throughout the film where you can see how hard this divorce is on him, and he shows how much his heart is breaking without having to scream or yell. Both actors show how much the divorce is hurting them with just facial reactions, and that takes a lot of skill. But Driver delivers a mesmerising performance and proves why he’s one of the best actors in the industry.
Noah Baumbach shows both sides of the divorce without a bias, which is something we never really see. Usually, you would have one character as the person you’re supposed to support and one you should hate, but here it’s near impossible to pick a side. Each character gets an equal amount of screen-time, and it allows Johansson and Driver to deliver mesmerizing performances. As mentioned before, for a majority of the movie, they usually express the hard toll of the divorce through facial expressions.
Most directors would usually push for a bunch of scenes where the two actors go off at each other, and obviously have a biased character you’re meant to support more than the other. But here we get one big argument, and it’s jaw-dropping to watch. The sequence (well the whole movie actually) makes you feel like you aren’t watching a movie. It feels like you’re a fly-on-the-wall, and it feels uncomfortable at times. You want to give them space, but you can’t stop looking at the two go at each other. It’s one of the best scenes of the year, and it’s some of the best acting I’ve ever seen.
Baumbach also explores how lawyers can make a horrible situation even worse. Each party gets dirty, and it leads to hatred on both sides. ‘Marriage Story’ works because it makes you sympathise for both sides, and you feel bad when one side makes just a minor mistake that could cost them dearly.
Now, I have to talk about Randy Newman’s beautiful score, which is quickly becoming my favourite of the year. Newman’s score beautifully compliments everything that is happening on-screen, and the opening scene is a great example of this. As we have both characters narrate everything they love about their partner, Newman’s use of piano and strings bring on more emotion in a way that is wonderful to watch. By listening to the strings, we understand where the characters are coming from, and how they are feeling about this divorce. Throughout the film, Newman keeps the score at a level that perfectly suits each scene it plays in, and it enhances the movie wonderfully.
I also have to mention the editing, which is another huge positive for the film. Editor Jennifer Lane understands Baumbach’s vision and uses a great mixture of subtle, quick cuts and extended long takes. One sequence, in particular, uses several quick cuts as the two characters are on either side of a gate. To some, it might take them out of the experience as they’ve been getting used to long takes throughout the film, but this use of quick cutting beautifully portrays what it’s like to say goodbye to someone. It’s utterly heartbreaking to witness.
As I mentioned earlier, the script is brilliant. I mentioned how it does something that other similar movies do and looks at divorce from both sides and how, even though you want to side with one of the two, you can see their reasoning and can’t help but feel bad for either side. The dialogue is real, and with Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson delivering it perfectly, it’s the best script of 2019. Seriously, everything in this movie is brilliant.
Overall, ‘Marriage Story’ is one of the most beautifully heartbreaking films of the last few years. This realistic tale of what it’s like to go through a divorce is elevated by Noah Baumbach’s incredible directing, Randy Newman’s beautiful score, and mesmerising performances from all involved. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson are at their best and give award-worthy performances. If you ever wanted to see how messy and awkward a divorce is, ‘Marriage Story’ is the perfect film, and it continues to prove why Netflix a fantastic platform for entertainment.