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‘Marriage Story’ movie review: Love, life and heartbreak

Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver in ‘Marriage Story’

Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver in ‘Marriage Story’   | Photo Credit: Netflix

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Noah Baumbach’s devastating new film is a searing portrait of a relationship ending

While not similar stories by any means, Marriage Story, much like Room (2015), is a film where thoughts and feelings are articulated so precisely that viewers know exactly what the characters are going through.

Directed by Academy Award-nominated director Noah Baumbach, the film has scored a host of Golden Globe nominations (usually a predictor of how the Oscars will go) including best drama motion picture, best screenplay, and best actor nominations for Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver who play Nicole and Charlie Barber, a couple in the process of getting a divorce.

 

He is a well-regarded “serious” New York theatre director; she is the lead actor in his theatre company, having had a starring role years earlier in a teen movie titled All Over the Girl.

The film opens with a montage as Charlie and Nicole detail what they love about each other (a note of positivity before things get contentious, says their therapist).

“He rarely gets defeated, which I feel I always do,” says Nicole. “My crazy ideas are her favourite things to figure out how to execute,” says Charlie. They both call the other competitive and praise the other’s skills in parenting their eight-year-old, Henry (Azhy Robertson).

Did Charlie cheat on Nicole, or is Nicole resentful because she gave up what could have been a movie star life to do theatre in New York?

Marriage Story
  • Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Azhy Robertson, Julie Hagerty, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta
  • Director: Noah Baumbach
  • Runtime: 2 hr 16 minutes
  • Storyline : The breakdown of a marriage and its aftermath

The answers come through slowly.

Let’s do this without lawyers, they say in the beginning, aiming to protect their son during the transition and hoping to stay friends.

But as Nicole begins to step out of the large shadow her husband has cast, which starts with making the move to LA with Henry to film a pilot (it’s just temporary insists Charlie to himself and anyone who will listen), she begins to assert herself and what she wants from her life. And in this regard, she is aided by her tough-as-nails-but-sympathetic-to-her-cause lawyer played by Laura Dern (always excellent and also nominated for a Globe) .

But things do get contentious, especially after Charlie fires his old-school lawyer and hires his own bulldozing lawyer played by Ray Liotta. This eventually culminates in a truly-magnificently acted eruption of anger, frustration and resentment carried through the years of their marriage.

Jojo Rabbit hasn’t yet released in India so a comparison can’t be made but this is probably Scarlett’s best performance till date. From a woman who worries about what she is doing and how it affects Charlie and Henry to living life the way she wants to, every emotion is etched on her face. Driver too is excellent as someone who has his own suppressed resentments and who is trying to balance his career and ensure that his son does not slip away from him (children, obviously, do not understand the import of certain actions and sometimes just don’t want to do something. Even if their father flew 5000 miles to see them).

The poignant soundtrack by Randy Newman (also nominated for a Golden Globe) proves to be the perfect accompaniment to the story.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2020 8:14:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/reviews/marriage-story-movie-review-love-life-and-heartbreak/article30320530.ece

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