Marriage Story, rated R
My wife Tammy and I have been watching the movies which received “Best Film” Oscar nominations which we had not already seen. One of those films was Marriage Story, an interestingly titled film, as it is less about a marriage than it is about a painful divorce. The film received six Oscar nominations, and features outstanding acting performances from Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver. It is also a very difficult film to watch and hard to recommend. The film is directed and written by three-time Oscar nominee Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story, The Squid and the Whale), and is based on Baumbach’s own divorce.
The film tells the story of Charlie, played by two-time Oscar nominee Adam Driver (Marriage Story, BlacKkKlansman), the owner/director of a theatre company in New York, his wife Nicole, played by two-time Oscar nominee Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story, Jojo Rabbit), who is the star of his plays, and their young son Henry, played by Azhy Robertson.
Nicole was a film actress from California who moved to New York with Charlie, who is so absorbed in his job that he doesn’t realize that his wife is unhappy. She has long wanted to move back to Los Angeles to resume her acting career and be closer to her family. On top of that, after they agreed to separate, Charlie was unfaithful to Nicole. Still, when Nicole goes to Los Angeles with Henry to shoot the pilot for a television series, Charlie fully expects that she will return to New York when it is finished. Instead, she serves Charlie with divorce papers.
In the beginning, both agree to remain amicable and settle their divorce without attorneys, but that quickly changes when Nicole is introduced to attorney Nora, played by three-time Oscar nominee Laura Dern (Marriage Story, Wild, Rambling Rose). That’s when things turn nasty between the two, with Charlie frequently flying from New York where he has a play going to Broadway, to Los Angeles, with Henry in the middle. Charlie first hires the easy-going attorney Bert, played by Oscar nominee Alan Alda (The Aviator), who has himself been divorced multiple times. When things continue to escalate, he fires Bert and hires the high-powered Jay, played by Golden Globe nominee Ray Liotta (Something Wild) as his attorney.
Charlie and Nicole end up saying things to each other that they never thought that they would say. The film clearly shows the pain that both partners feel as they go through the divorce.
Themes in the film include divorce, pain, family and parenting. Content concerns include a significant amount of adult language, including abuses of God’s and Jesus’s names, and an ugly, painful divorce.
Driver and Johansson are incredible in their roles. Dern is excellent as well, though she plays a very unlikeable character.
Marriage Story is a very well-acted film about the end of a marriage that is difficult to watch or recommend. Questions for discussion – do you think their problems were insurmountable and could only be solved by divorce? If not, what would be needed to keep this family together?