I’ve been a fan of Noah Baumbach for a long time now, ever since I saw The Squid And The Whale (2005). His films have been solid, well written, witty. But with Marriage Story, Baumbach goes to another level. He’s created a master work, a really great film. Expectations will be higher next time out. It has some Woody Allen vibes but this is no knock off. This is an extremely well written, well directed, well structured film. The performances are amazing. The emotions are raw and it feels very genuine and real. It’s a painful, sad film but don’t be scared away by that. Embrace it. Good films don’t just make you feel good. Good films make you feel. This one stays with you.
Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlet Johansson) are a young married couple with a young son that lives in Brooklyn. Charlie is a theater director who runs an experimental theater company and Nicole is his star. But after ten years of marriage they are separating and preparing to divorce. They agree to work things out themselves without using lawyers but things change when Nicole heads to Los Angeles with their son to do a TV pilot. A meeting with a lawyer, wonderfully played by Laura Dern, leads Nicole to see things differently so when Charlie comes to visit the divorce gets real. Fast.
The emotional rollercoaster is relentless. Charlie desperately does not want to lose his son and keeps flying back and forth from one coast to the other. He meets with lawyers as well, an expensive, no nonsense, slick Ray Liotta and a sweet, old family lawyer beautifully played by Alan Alda. Unfortunately, divorce never ends well.
Adam Driver and Scarlet Johannson are great. They really dig deep and you care about them and feel every heartache they feel. All the supporting roles are well cast and well performed. Julie Heggerty (Airplane!) is a hoot as Johannson’s mom who loves Charlie. Alan Alda is so good in this you wish Charlie would listen to him but he can’t see past his own pain and anger. Every scene matters, fits together to create a wonderfully constructed piece of work. It’s a true achievement. It’s playing on Netflix so you can watch and cry in the safety of your own home, sipping your wine under your favorite blanket. You’ll thank me for it.