I often use movies as a way of experiencing things that I may or may not ever get to in my own life. I can see what it is like to survive in some life or death situation or maybe win the lottery, I mean there are so many things I get to do via the movies. As someone who has never been married, everything I know about it I learned from my parents, who have been married for forever and of course, from movies. With that said you can pretty much guess I have a relatively strange view of marriage. On one hand I have my parents who have been through life together and on the other I have movies like Kramer vs. Kramer that shows me the horrors, it’s so confusing. Getting past the confusing thought of marriage is for me, almost forgetting it’s not really only up to me anyways. Noah Baumbach comes along with his new film on the subject, conveniently titled Marriage Story to put his two cents in.
Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) and Charlie ( Adam Driver) personify what the perfect partnership looks like. Not only are they married, they work together as Charlie is directing a play that Nicole is staring in. Together they have a son and a successful play, all which is leading to both bigger and greater things for both of them. For Charlie it is getting an exclusive grant to continue his work and for Nicole it’s a chance to star in a pilot that could be a TV series. Life looks good. Life is not good though, as Nicole thinks it’s best that they separate, something Charlie agrees to, as they both plan for this to be as easy as possible, for both them and for their son. Things never go as planned and it starts to go south when Nicole hires Nora (Lauren Dern) as her lawyer, which sets in motion a “taking the gloves off “ approach. Soon Charlie is having to hire his own lawyer, first Bert (Alan Alda) and then Jay (Ray Liotta), because the first one was too nice. What follows is a gauntlet of feelings as we see what seemed too good to be ending so badly.
Learning about a relationship from movies is about at useful as learning about them from songs, because you know they set up a false expectation. With that said sometimes a movie or a song just nail what it is like and while Marriage Story is not a reference point for marriage, it is for what can happen when it fails. Baumbach seems to get the feeling of a divorce that you will swear that he is exercising some past demons to tell such a story. Everything you see feels like you have front row tickets to the failing of a relationship and it is something you can’t pull your eyes away from. What makes the story really soar though is Johansson and Driver, the later giving what I can easily say is the best performance of the year. In this year of Driver, who has some pretty good roles as the year ends, you can only just watch with your mouth agape at what he lays down. This will be hard to watch for a lot of people, but you should, because it’s not just a great marriage story, it’s a film that will long remembered for years to come.