Friday, November 8, 2019

Movie with Abe: Marriage Story

Marriage Story
Directed by Noah Baumbach
Released November 6, 2019

The dissolution of a marriage is a painful process for all involved. Minor disagreements and sentiments that might have gone undiscussed during happier times are blown up and emphasized as indications of a larger trend of behavior, and long-forgotten fights are brought again even if they had previously been resolved. When lawyers are involved, things can get much messier, with constant battles to achieve victory that may not represent what it is that both parties actually want, expressed in a moment of anger that can have lasting reverberations and consequences for the future of what in many cases could be a mostly amicable relationship.

Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) and Charlie (Adam Driver) are in the process of separating, a decision largely spurred by Nicole’s belief that Charlie prioritizes the theater company he runs over all else and her decision to relocate to Los Angeles to star in a TV pilot. They start with mediation, but Nicole is encouraged to see a famed divorce attorney (Laura Dern) whose cutthroat approach forces Charlie to find his own representation (Alan Alda). Nicole and Charlie aren’t much concerned with who gets what, but the same thing is most important to both of them: their young son Henry (Azhy Robertson).

Writer-director Noah Baumbach has tackled the complexities of divorce before in his strong 2005 film “The Squid and the Whale.” This time, he returns with the same familiar humor that adds much-needed levity to a serious and upsetting story. There are moments of comedy embedded within a narrative that shows two people fighting to regain some sense of normalcy and happiness after their lives spiral out of control thanks to the manipulation of their emotions and desires by those hired to represent them and argue on their behalf. It’s an affecting and deeply human portrait, with echoes of “500 Days of Summer” related to the way in which once endearing qualities can be seen in a less positive context when the circumstances of a relationship have changed.

This film features spectacular performances from Johansson and Driver, representing an enormous step forward in both of their thriving careers as they each have other major arthouse and blockbuster projects this year. Their interactions are immensely watchable, and seeing them boil to such anger before returning back to a state of melancholy acceptance is extraordinary. Dern offers a formidable scene-stealing turn, with additional support from Alda and Ray Liotta as a similarly brutal negotiator. This is a powerful, honest film, one which is not always an easy watch but is terrific and resonant from start to finish.


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