Marriage Story is a film by Noah Baumbach about a married couple named Nicole and Charlie who are going through a divorce and trying to negotiate an arrangement from opposite sides of the country. The film looks at their lives over the course of the divorce navigating through their often polarised views on what their marriage was, whilst raising their son Henry.
My overall opinion on the film is taken up overwhelmingly by my love for its screenplay. Noah Baumbach managed to make the screenplay just as captivating and thought provoking as a novel. The writing has the simplicity you would see in most screenplays of the same genre of films but has a complexity that keeps you at a constant state of awareness of the characters and the action. The dialogue is quick, witty and matter-of-fact. The sequence of actions and the dialogue together are constant and have an urgency to them that mimics the deadlines the characters are faced with during the film.
The story itself has a simplicity which Baumbach has managed to tackle and work with so well, showcasing the lack of simplicity involved with divorces and relationships. The story is not far removed from the stories of thousands who are faced with consequences of a ‘failed marriage’ and seek the help of mitigators/lawyers to help make arrangements. The story sheds light on the realities of relationships that are not able to meet the standards of marriages that are founded on the principles of ‘just getting on with things’. Sometimes these marriages are also not an indication of a parents ineffective nurturing of their children as we see multiple times how Nicole and Charlie’s interests are met by Henry’s often brutal, childlike honestly. Modern marriages and relationships cannot follow the age-old formula in order to survive and Nicole and Charlie’s decision to end theirs do not make them bad people.
Scarlett Johansson’s portrayal of Nicole is hard to find fault in as she mimics the maternal nature so well and in a way that doesn’t conceal the flaws in Nicole’s character. Adam Driver’s portrayal of Charlie blends seemingly with Johansson’s performance and the balance between the characters never leaves you discontent with either character. Both actors do a great job in convincing you of the arguments from both sides.
What struck me about the cinematography was its ability to portray the normalcy of the story and the characters lives through the seamless transitions and toned down, warm colour tones. The colour compositions greatly influenced the general feel of the film and the warmer tones and soft transitions helped in being able to immerse myself in the mundane world the characters.
The scene that captured my attention the most is unequivocally a monologue, performed by Nicole’s Lawyer, Nora Fanshaw, played by Laura Dern. The unapologetic and piercing dialogue perfectly translated the hurdles faced by mothers in our ‘post-feminist’ world, put in place by men who need to find a way to control women. This monologue flawed me due to its honesty and my realisation at the obvious realities of the characters words which hides in plain site in our everyday lives. Dern’s conviction and sharpness in delivering this scene made the piece exorbitantly more meaningful and real as, it would have been hard placed to find an objection to this.
Overall, the compassion and the honest portrayal of the modern realities of relationships made this film on of my favourite dramas I have watched in a long time.