In this movie review, it was hard to find anything out of place as the crew and cast did a spectacular job of wowing their audience. Every scene in a movie is trying to accomplish something; it’s trying to lead the viewer towards something bigger, an ending that becomes inevitable as you reach climax. The characters you meet along the way each carry their own biography of thoughts and terrors that contributes as it starts to unravel and become clear in the final scene. Director Noah Baumbach pulls the viewer between the lines and lives of his characters in Marriage Story. He openly invites us to form part of a wrenching tragedy that plays out through most of the film. The topic of divorce leaves a cold breath in the air as Nicole and Charlie battle to find balance in their lives as individuals, but also in the life of their son Henry.
The sharp dialogue and rich history carried in the film gives Marriage Story the chance to almost play like a rom-com. Their intimate relationship seemed troublesome from the start, as the film opens up with the marriage already over. Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) and Charlie (Adam Driver) Barber find themselves at the hands of a mediator, after deciding the end their marriage and live separate lives. Charlie and Nicole both try and maintain a sort of sanctity in the hopes that their terrible divorce won’t change the way Henry will play an integral role in both their lives. At the end of any relationship or marriage, each party builds trust in the system that it will succumb to closure and peace.
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What this film shows the viewer is that the hostile air of divorce can become toxic as it progresses. Trying to fight for themselves, they both decide to get lawyers to help ease the process. Nicole and Charlie find it difficult to believe that all their well-meaning notions are crumbling away, and that the legal system is built to breed. The melancholy of Charlie’s life, a theatre director, is worsening by the realization that Nicole, an actress, is planning to leave for Los Angeles with their son, in the hopes of starting a new life.
Ironically, Marriage Story doesn’t play out as a tragic movie, but rather puts the poisonous concept of divorce and the long tedious process involved with it in plain sight for the viewer. It’s a story of trying to stay amicable while your whole world is being infected by a poison. The successful delivery of star divorce lawyer Nora Fanshaw (Laura Dern) at one point says to Nicole “The system rewards ugly behaviour”, ties in with Charlie’s lawyer Jay Marotta (Ray Liotta) who makes it clear to him that “At the end of this process you’re going to hate me,” Charlie’s lawyer, is the perfect counterbalance that’s needed.
The great thing about Marriage Story is that although tragedy is at the epicentre of their lives, the whole film isn’t consumed by it. The Barbers are still human in their need to be funny, caring and full of deep love and contempt. You can expect the film to sway between moods and emotions, as the couple tries to still maintain a normal life, but with a burden riding on the back of their subconscious. Their long monologues, emotional breakdowns and the way Bambauch makes the characters play in each frame is a delivery of on-screen intimacy that keeps the viewer captivated.
It’s really no secret that the struggles and burdens that accompany any divorce are straightforward and easy to resolve. The countless arguments and different ways Nicole and Charlie battle individually to finding balance in their new lives, are perfectly intertwined with the honest and straightforwardness of Marriage Story. They each dwell on their differences, but are constantly playing a tug-o-war of how they’re so similar. Bambauch mirrored the film on something many relationships struggle with; a hopefulness that will remain even after both ends have departed.
Marriage Story isn’t clear in its delivery from the start. The notion of hope shows its face as the film progress, with the central-pair hoping for a better life, not only for themselves, but for one another as well. They play peacekeepers during challenging times, conflicted with everything that built up to their tragic end.