“It’s not as simple as not being in love anymore.”
As a huge fan of Frances Ha, heartbreaking films, and all things Adam Driver, it’s no surprise Marriage Story was one of my most anticipated films of the year. Despite my excitement, I was not prepared. At all.
Marriage Story pulls its audience in within minutes with a beautiful list of everything our two main characters love about each other. It is sweet, romantic, cheerful – and extremely short lived. Full of monologues, people on the verge of crying, and superficial divorce lawyers, Noah Baumbach shares the difficult-to-watch story of a marriage falling apart. Perhaps the most accurate review I can give is through my emotional response. I spent half the movie angry, frustrated with the main characters and the decisions they made; I spent the other half in tears.
The technical aspects of Marriage Story are too impressive to ignore. The use of colour and costuming is beautiful. The cinematography is intimate and successfully grabs the audiences’ attention. It has an excellent score and I loved the lighting – during the darkest moments it was dim, but when anger was hot and secrets were revealed it was bright. It’s a gorgeous movie that uses its aesthetic to elevate the story rather than distract from it – something Baumbach has experience with after the black-and-white Frances Ha.
More importantly, the acting is phenomenal. Scarlett Johansson pushes her acting to new limits and Adam Driver has, as far as I’m concerned, earned his Oscar. Laura Dern wastes no time winning the audience over. Child actor Azhy Robertson is always charming and easily encourages the audience to be protective of him. Every performance is stellar. It’s no coincidence this was released during the heat of the awards competition – Marriage Story is a strong contender for many bests of 2019.
What makes this movie so incredible is its flaws. Both of the main characters are stripped down to their most intimate, primal moments that it’s hard to side with either of them. Nicole appears to be the victim at first but it doesn’t take long to resent the decisions she makes. Charlie has admittedly made terrible mistakes and caused a lot of his own problems, but it’s hard not to pity him. Divorce lawyers are shown both as helpful companions and money-hungry manipulators of the facts. Despite its aesthetically pleasing exterior, this is a messy story with plenty of raw, confronting moments that will shock and hurt its audience. Because of this, Marriage Story is an incredibly emotional movie that digs deep into what love is and asks if two people ever truly stop loving each other, even after growing apart.
Marriage Story is so intimate and personal that I think every audience will see it differently. It is extremely frustrating but I believe that is only evidence of how well-written and performed it is. Push through the painful moments for the melancholy ending, and allow Adam Driver to take full custody of your emotions.
Marriage Story is now streaming on Netflix.