#REVIEW: “MARRIAGE STORY”
Review by Mr. Will Wong
Often we see stories where a couple falls in love. But what happens when a couple falls out of love? Noah Baumbach bravely tells this story with great heart and authenticity in his masterpiece, Marriage Story which while not autobiographical, is personal.
Charlie Barber (Adam Driver) is a Theatre Director based in New York City who has gained success after many years on the grind, just about to open a play on Broadway. Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) after starring many years in Charlie‘s productions, lands an opportunity in Los Angeles where she is from originally, on a Television Pilot which could take her away from Charlie for quite some time if ordered into a Series. Here is where we see things begin to unravel as she prepares to divorce Charlie, finding a sharp-shooting lawyer in Nora (Laura Dern) and having him served his papers. Charlie too is forced to “lawyer-up” finding someone able and willing to fight, even though this was never his hope nor are we sure it is Nicole’s either.
At the center of what increasingly becomes a tense battle uncovering several uncomfortable memories, is their son Henry (Azhy Robertson). With both parents afraid to lose custody of him, we see the battle go coast to coast as Charlie fears also losing the life and career he has given his all to build in New York. Battling for custody of Henry means he must travel frequently and unexpectedly to Los Angeles now to see his son since Nicole has decided she wants to build her life with Henry there. We learn she has held-back this aspiration while being married to Charlie, being bound too to his Theatre Company.
Baumbach crafts Marriage Story to articulate perfection. We see how the disolving of Charlie and Nicole‘s marriage impacts not only them, but all those around them. We get exactly what it means to others and what’s at stake, whether it be Nicole’s mother Sandra (Julie Hagerty) and how torn she becomes in her love of Charlie and balancing loyalty to her daughter. We see also how exhausting it is for Henry to celebrate two Halloweens now with the sharing of responsibilities between both his parents, both fighting to win his approval.
Baumbach takes a refreshingly-balanced approach in helping us see the complexities of divorce, whether it be its legal ramifications or intricacies on both sides of the relationship that justify why both sides are in fact right. He guides us through step-by-step and while often it is easy to pick a side, we find ourselves neither in Charlie nor Nicole‘s corner. We root for both and the narrative always comes back to what is best for all and the child. We are dragged through the mud as Baumbach never shies from taking us through some deeply-uncomfortable confrontation and hurt, before taking us ultimately to our destination.
Johansson and Driver have never been better than in these performances which Baumbach has elicited from them with his masterful Script and under his laser-focused direction. He allows his two leads to flourish in scenes with extended dialogue showcasing their true range and ability, culminating in a heartwrenching breaking point where both Charlie and Nicole‘s words are thrown like daggers, cutting like a knife that leaves us bleeding profusely.
Undisputedly, this is one of the most, if not the most remarkable journey we will be taken-on at the Movies this year. Marriage Story not only is honest and captivating, it makes impactful insights about how misguided our focuses can be in divorce and separation. More importantly, it redirects us on where our attentions should be.
Marriage Story is now in select theatres and streams on Netflix Friday, December 6, 2019.