Director: Noah Baumbach
Writer(s): Noah Baumbach
Cast: Adam Driver, Scarlett Johannson, Laura Dern
Synopsis: Charlie, a stage director, and his wife, and star actress, Nicole get a divorce that spans the length of New York to Los Angeles.
I want to start off this review by saying I was lucky enough to not only see this film two months early but in theaters on the big screen. I want to shout out the Nashville Film Festival for everything they do for getting us these wonderful films and allowing the people from Nashville the chance to see some incredible films.
I was absolutely floored by this film. Marriage Story was not only one of the best movies I have seen this year. It is the most complete top to bottom film I have seen all year. Everything from the writing to the directing to the acting was top-notch. Every single person working on this film worked their tails off, and you can really tell from the film. At times the funniest movie of the year, and at times one of the hardest to watch films of the year.
This film is basically Kramer Vs. Kramer for the 21st century. Pulling on many of the same ideas that film had, but making it his own we continue to see Noah Baumbach as an excellent writer. We have seen his skills as a writer on display in the past. He brings it to another level in this film, crafting one of the most human scripts of the entire year. It is sometimes funny, sometimes sad, and sometimes absolutely gut-wrenching. He is open with this script, refusing to choose sides, and shows us that in this situation there isn’t anyone who is right or wrong. This constant back and forth between Charlie and Nicole is done so well all the way up to one fight they have, which is, so far, the hardest scene for me to watch all year. Blow after blow, they are battling it out for who gets the last say, and in this argument, there is not a winner. It absolutely breaks you and at the same time showcases how phenomenal Scarlett Johannson and Adam Driver really were in this film.
Scarlett Johannson, playing Nicole, has never been this good ever. Outside of Marvel films, she has not taken many risks in recent years. She comes back with a vengeance this year to remind everyone of how good she actually is. She doesn’t get as much of the writing that Charlie does, but I think she gets a little more screentime than Adam Driver does. She uses all of this time exceptionally well and draws you in every time she is in front of the camera. She has a few monologues early in the film that really bring you right into her mindset, and Johannson plays them beautifully. When she was on screen I knew there was a chance that I could start bursting out in tears because of how real she made this character. It was heartbreaking and beautiful.
She could not have done it without Adam Driver, playing Charlie, though, and vice versa for him. The way these two seasoned actors played off each other gives us some of the best chemistry of the year, especially when they’re supposed to be in the situation they are in. Driver for me was good, up until the middle of the second act and leading into the third act. That is where he started to blow me away. You can see the fight in his eyes for the chance to be with his son, and you can really see how much he cares about this whole situation. This includes a scene with a knife that just blew me away with how sad it actually was. It was played for laughs, but when you really went back to think about this scene it was disturbingly sad. Adam Driver gets a bulk of the juicer lines and delivers on all of them throughout the film. One scene near the end of the film reminded me so much of the scene in Kramer Vs. Kramer when Dustin Hoffman’s Ted is making french toast with his son Billy. It was heartbreaking, just like the rest of the film and Adam Driver was phenomenal in it.
The supporting cast was good also starting with Laura Dern who just blew me away as a Los Angeles lawyer. Alan Alda is not on screen that much, same as fellow lawyer Ray Liotta, but they each give phenomenal performances too. This goes back to the writing of the film which just feels so undeniably personal to Noah Baumbach and you can really tell the heart and passion he put into making this film. We also get to see Noah Baumbach, the director, step out and take the spotlight as well. His grasp on this film is held so tight and so personal that you really begin to feel for him as a person, and you almost have to applaud him for creating this cathartic film. He really stepped it up a notch with this film and it was beautiful to see.
I really cannot find many flaws with this film. Besides the acting, directing, and writing, this film still holds up in most of the major technical aspects as well. The score was beautiful, even though I do wish it was used a little more, and the editing was wonderful as well. At times the editing felt sort of “TVish”, but with the film being made for Netflix, and made to be seen on a TV it makes sense and was not a bother for me as well. All around this movie was absolutely breathtaking. I have no complaints.
Final: Marriage Story fills you with emotion, wrings you out, and forces you to dry knowing you won’t be the same as you were when the film started. It is a truly complete film top to bottom that is as perfect as a film can be. Baumbach absolutely delivers as he gives us one of the funniest, saddest, and at times downright ugliest looks at divorce which forces the audience’s range of emotions to go from laughing to crying, and even at times undoubtedly tense. This is one of the hardest films I have had to watch all year, but as of right now it is the best film I have gotten to watch this year. When I start to think about giving a film 5/5 stars I begin to think about why I shouldn’t give the film the highest ranking. With this one I had nothing. The only thing I don’t like about this film is the fact I will never be able to purchase it and add it to my collection.
My Score: *****
Current Tomato Score: 100%
Current Metacritic: 95
Current IMDb: 7.7/10
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