I’ve gotten quite a few messages and comments asking when I’d get around to reviewing the Netflix-exclusive drama Marriage Story, so I finally made time to sit down with it… and wow, that was intense.
Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) are a married couple and we follow them as their marriage falls apart and they finalize a divorce. Caught in the middle is their only child Henry (Azhy Robertson). We also have lawyers on both sides of the case played by Laura Dern, Ray Liotta, and Alan Alda. The film was written and directed by Noah Baumbach.
You can imagine this is an emotionally draining series of events, so make sure you’re in a solid state of mind to put yourself through this before you begin.
This entire film is reliant on its performances and that’s where the movie succeeded most. Scarlet Johansson was great, yes, but I found Adam Driver to be the one who brought me to tears, several times. This arc is painful and heartbreaking and he’s absolutely captivating, no matter which ‘side’ you end up taking in this exchange.
In terms of story, this movie is brilliant in that no side is clearly right. As it progresses, both characters make drastic moves to ‘win’ this divorce and it’s heartbreaking for both of them. If you’re a child of divorce, or have been through one yourself, you may find this story hard to watch unfold, or maybe cathartic. It will undoubtedly have some strong effects on you.
What doesn’t work?
I don’t think this is a perfect movie. It’s a bit overhyped for me, so I felt a tad disappointed. The performances are great, yes. Oscar-caliber. But I don’t think this movie as a whole is anything incredible. It’s a relatable story with great performances, so a lot of people seem to be won over by that.
It’s also a hard watch, which some of you may not enjoy at all. And it’s likely a film that you won’t ever want to rewatch. It drags at times, sometimes limping to the finish line, and there’s some odd tone choices which undercut the message, including a sequence with an oddball social service worker that was played for laughs. There’s genius in here, but this isn’t an especially polished jewel.
If you’re in the right state of mind, this movie is worth watching for Driver and Johansson’s performances alone. It’s a very human tale and unfortunately relatable for many people. However the movie could have benefited from some trimming in the editing room and a reshoot of a few comedic sequences which felt tonally incongruent.