Marriage Story (2019)
Acting and Writing Masterclass
Hands down, Adam Driver should have won an Academy Award for his role in Marriage Story. This film is both sad and emotionally intelligent. The writing by Noah Baumbach is clever and a masterclass in how to tell both sides of a story. Marriage Story follows the tumultuous divorce of Charlie and Nicole Barber, played by Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson. Yes, there’s a kid involved so there’s a custody battle involved.
The film begins with a really clever, almost corny, summary of Charlie and Nicole’s love story and the parenting of their child. In stark contrast, it almost immediately cuts to what the relationship really is now. There’s a distance and lack of connection between them. Charlie sleeps on the couch, Nicole cries, we see where they’re at. Trying to make something work that has clearly fallen apart.
This film is about a realistic couple, it’s not about good vs evil, so both sides need to be represented. The first part of the film shows Nicole’s side of the story. She’s a talented actress and feels that Charlie’s career as a theatre director has held her back. He hasn’t done enough to make her happy and in this first part of the film, the audience tends to side with Nicole. To her it’s almost good vs evil, bad maybe not evil. The idea is there. When Charlie is introduced, we start to see not only his side of the story, but who he is. Not everything we learned from Nicole is how we should see Charlie. They lacked communication, and Charlie never meant to hurt her. They were both flawed partners and as much as they built each other up in love, they brought each other down.
The juxtaposition of Charlie and Nicole talking about their marriage and divorce with their friends, family, lawyers and their son, is just great. They want this to be amicable and friendly, but without communicating with each other, the mixed signals they receive make the situation become more and more toxic. I never thought I’d see Kylo Ren sing, but scenes like that make this movie great. A scene where. Charlie and Nicole have an argument, through really long takes and raw emotion, is brilliant. The acting and writing is top notch.
In the end, Charlie and Nicole learn that they have love for each other, just not the kind they need. It’s very emotionally intelligent and it’s good to see a happy ending in such a dramatic, angry, sad movie.
Overall, this film is pretty great. The cinematography and music aren’t especially memorable, but the acting and writing are enough to call this one of the best films I’ve ever seen. Would I watch it again? I definitely will, just let me be emotionally prepared for it. Should you watch it? Yes! Watch it, reflect on it, and apply the lessons to your life.