I’m typically not a Noah Baumbach fan and was hesitant about this film, to say the least. I kept hearing rave reviews about it and had to go in with an open mind and man was my mind blown. Marriage Story is a love story about the separation of a married couple, Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johannson) who reside in New York City. As their separation progresses toward divorce, Nicole takes a job in Los Angeles shooting a pilot episode for a television show. When she leaves for Los Angeles, their son, Henry, comes along. Once in Los Angeles, she begins the process of divorcing Charlie, by hiring an attorney, Nora. As the divorce is more imminent, their battle to keep their son happy and still managing their own pain becomes a very difficult challenge for them both.
Marriage Story surprises audiences with its whip-smart humor and poignant message about life, love, and personal growth. What it balances so well is the humor and these intensely emotional scenes that grip you tight. For every long monologue or argument scene, we get an offbeat comment about pie or something else to lighten the mood. This allows for the characters to be seen as incredibly flawed and unbelievably real. Scarlett Johansson gives the most genuine performance we have seen in a while. She fully embodies this suffering, broken woman and mother who is trying to find her voice that she lost so long ago. This journey of rediscovery is inspiring and painful to see.
There is a long monologue in the film where she explains her history with Charlie to her lawyer, Nora (Laura Dern), and the raw emotion in her eyes is powerful and reaches the audience on a personal level. Adam Driver is at the top of his game. His deadpan humor combined with these wholly human and relatable painful moments has such an impact. There is a pretty tense ten-minute long scene where Charlie and Nicole are fighting about how ugly things have gotten in the divorce. The scene is crackling with passion and very intimate. While not every scene in the film rings true for every relationship, everyone can find something that they’ve seen in their own and it makes it incredibly personal to see. This scene where Charlie yells at Nicole “you’ll never be happy no matter where you are,” is something that has been said to me and it cut right through me hearing Adam Driver say it. At the end of the scene, he breaks down crying in the most visceral way, proving that he is easily one of the best actors of our generation. Laura Dern is sensational as Nora, giving a performance that captivates the audience whenever she speaks.
Noah Baumbach has created something so genuinely human and emotionally raw, that it demands to be seen. The electrifying dialogue delivered by breathtaking performances makes Marriage Story one of the best films of the year. Marriage Story goes beyond the screen and reaches to the core of our emotions, taking us on a journey of life, love, and mending a broken life.