Director: Noah Baumbach
Writer: Noah Baumbach
Stars: Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Julia Greer
As with all of Baumbach’s narratives, Marriage Story excels in the bravely earnest penmanship of the helmer. Marriage Story is not just a excellent drama with creative displays of tragedy layered with comedic sincerity that punctuates each moment with a relatable thread. It’s also a story about Baumbach’s own struggle with failure which is likely why it feels so resonant. Only an author so honest with his own reality could craft a story so authentic, so real. It’s a simple narrative, one that could easily veer into familiar territory that would render it too simple. But that is a critique best saved for films written with less voice. Baumbach bares his entire soul on the page. Am I sounding too dramatic? No? BAUMBACH BARES HIS SOUL! Better? The performances in this film are exquisite (there’s much to unpack in this statement, but I will unravel it slowly).
The problem with Marriage Story, a problem that is easy to overlook in a film that is crafted to jar you with its agile perspective, is that I believe it sides with one character. It tries so hard not to, you can see that plain as day when you watch Johansson’s monologue lamenting about her complicit reaction to her husband’s peacefully domineering presence in her life. But ultimately it is Adam Driver’s Charlie that leaves the lasting impression. I won’t dive into spoiler territory, but I feel very strongly that Nicole’s voice is relegated to the perspective Baumbach (and by extension, Charlie) has on her actions. What’s so interesting about this debate that I’m currently having with myself about this is that this is the only film I can think of in a long while that could even have this type of criticism.
It intentionally bends perspective, and aligning yourself with one side as I wilfully have, is Baumbach entire creative point. You as the viewer are saddled with a choice to fight for something. And the genius of this narrative is that it limits complicity. I think about Marriage Story often and contemplate if I would relate stronger to Nicole if I were a woman. It’s a question I’ll never really have perspective on, but I’m so excited to continually look for it. I’m rambling now. Marriage Story is incredible. It has lovely performances, some of which may be misguided in an attempt to convey a certain perspective, but nevertheless wonderful. The supporting cast too, my god! When has Ray Liotta been this good? Or Alan Alda? Or the constant force that is Laura Dern? Marriage Story is worthy of the conversation it inevitably creates. 9/10