Movie Review: Marriage Story(2019)

Noah Baumbach tells a story that’s too heartbreaking to overlook but maybe he does too much.

Written & Directed by Noah Baumbach

Starring: Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta, Julie Hagerty, Merrit Wever.

Budget: $18 Million

One thing that resounds during this experience is that Marriage Story is an exhibited work of art disguised as a Netflix film. Writer/Director Noah Baumbach masterly tells the story of a crashing marriage by interlocking close-to-reality experiences with remarkable sleight of director’s hands. The numerous close-ups on the leads – the elegant Scarlett Johansson and the incredible Adam Driver – tells its own story. If it was mute, you could read the emotions and feelings off their faces. The camera’s gaze is never too far from a character’s face because that’s where the truth lies – in our expressions and tiny facial movements that could be missed. 

It’s safe to say the plot is simple: a husband and wife, both invested in the theatrics, are going through the painful and heart-wrenching process of divorce. The lead duo are palpably burdened— pain in their faces; anger in their voices; the invisible weight that has slouched their shoulders; the water of truth in their eyes. And the phrase “everyone is a hero in their own story” has never been artfully depicted as you don’t even know who to root for. Unlike other films on the same tumultuous concept of marriage, this one gives equal screen time (of all things) to the couple.

Every emotional showdown makes you wish they have a rethink on the divorce. But you can’t bring back passion or wish back feelings.

It’s your typical real-life couple with real marriage problems. If you’ve been through a divorce or you’re married, Marriage Story validates or confirms most of your fears or births new ones with its expertly scribed screenplay and laudable performances. If you’ve never been married, Marriage Story becomes a living, breathing conscience that will hover above your head for a few days because just like the leads, you don’t forget the reason you fell in love with it in the first place, you just don’t feel that way anymore.

It’s good but not everlasting. The supporting characters left unforgettable marks but they remind us of our worst features and that’s scary. While Laura Dern and Ray Liotta, as Defense and Counsel respectively, squared it off in family court, emotional bloods were spilled and you hate the process, hate the lawyers, hate marriage and you end up sad for just one character instead of both like the film wants. By then, you probably begin to hate the art because it makes it a sin for you to pick a side but constantly leans to one side more than the other despite the equal screen time. Simply put, the story was told from both perspective but one tale cancels out the other at the end of it all.

Great acting and best directing are priced jewels in filmmaking. But with slightly askew writing, will we remember this marriage story a decade from now? 


Okiki Adeduyite

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