Noah Baumbach’s, Marriage Story is one of the most well written family dramas I’ve seen in this decade.
The screenplay is so well written and the dialogue is painful and realistic. It’s a very raw take on divorce and relationship issues. Baumbach’s direction should also be recognized because of how well he framed his leads and the emotions he captured from them.
The structure of this film is very fluid and captures the toughest moments of leaving someone. Baumbach began the film highlighting the positive traits of his protagonists. Charlie, played by the incredible Adam Driver, expressed his fondness for his wife over a montage of the memories he had of her. Charlie had his own perception of Nicole and thoroughly expressed his feelings for her. Right after, Nicole, played by Scarlett Johansson, in such a raw and authentic way, expresses her perception of Charlie in the same detailed manner. The editing at the beginning of this film, gives the audience the warm feeling of how wonderful their ten years of marriage was. It abruptly cuts to a couples therapist office and that’s when we are hit with the harsh reality of divorce.
Baumbach wrote Nicole’s character extremely well and Scarlett Johansson delivered a career best performance. When Nicole goes into speak with Nora, played by Laura Dern (who owned this role entirely), she explains why she needed to leave Charlie. Nicole talks about her agency as a performer and the feeling of losing her identity because of Charlie. It’s a powerful scene because she openly discusses how women can lose who they are, due to their selfless nature when in a relationship. She wanted to be her own person and Charlie did not allow her to do so. It was heartbreaking to watch Nicole take charge and break free of the shackles in which Charlie placed her in.
On the other hand, Baumbach also made Charlie a victim, well attempted to. Driver had such an emotional range and his reserved nature for the first half of the film, made it uncomfortable at times because it felt like he was inconvenienced by this divorce. As time went on, his aloofness turned to frustration because he wasn’t getting his way and once he found out that custody of his son Henry, was at stake, he then began to take Nicole seriously. His competitiveness finally came to the forefront. To Charlie this divorce was this great battle that he had to win and to Nicole, this divorce meant freedom, freedom of expression, freedom to love and freedom of speech.
Like all couples, love is what keeps them centred but it can also cloud their judgment when it comes to make decisions to better themselves. Love can blind those who are being abused, mentally, physically and emotionally. In Nicole and Charlie’s situation, love was shown through Charlie controlling Nicole through her career, without her even knowing it was happening.
The most incredible scene in Marriage Story was towards the end and the placement of this scene was crucial. Nicole going over to Charlie’s new apartment in LA and her finally having a private conversation with him, nearly knocked the wind out of me. Driver and Johansson were toe to toe and all the built up tension with lawyers exploded in hurtful words between them. They were both fantastic but Driver… Adam Driver’s explosive build up was the cherry on top of that scene. Driver is one of the most interesting actors working today and this film definitely proves his chops.
Marriage Story is a difficult watch but it also educates people in reevaluating your happiness in a relationship. What matters to you now, as an individual, will be different ten years from now. Your agency is the most important thing in this world and if you’re not with the right person, you will lose yourself and become your partners version of yourself.