Marriage Story

Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver bring us probably their best performances ever in this emotional and sad movie about the end of a marriage and how this event changes both of them. Now, don’t get me wrong, Scarlett Johansson is a great actress and she has some great performances under her belt, Lost in Translation, Black Widow in the Marvel Universe, but this movie really brings her acting skills to another level. About Adam Driver, I knew he was a great actor, I just hadn’t seen it yet (Star Wars made a pattern for its actors where they are good, but not great) but he was extremely convincing, complicated, interesting. He stole every scene where he was in, it almost seemed as if this movie is what he is like in real life. I have nothing but praise for this movie.

Okay, here’s a confession. I had not seen any movies where Noah Baumbach directed, if you know who he is you know that he is very recognized in dramatical movies, he is pretty much a legend, but I just hadn’t gotten the time or taken the time to check out any of his other movies. I know now that I should have watched his movies and I will.

Now, to the story. This movie is about a married couple who begin to have problems in their marriage. He is a Theater director and she is the star actress of the theater. They live in New York although they are not originally from there, she comes from L.A. and has a background of being an actress. Basically, this whole movie is about the process of their divorce and of the problems they have by trying to do what “is right”. For how basic the movie’s plot was, I had my doubts about it. I wasn’t sure if it was worth watching but I just heard so much about it that I took the decision to give it a shot and, I haven’t cried so much in a movie since the first time I watched “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” (which if you know me, you know it’s my favorite movie of all time). I don’t cry in movies, or hardly ever do, specially because I consider the movie to be fiction and why would I cry for something that didn’t happen, it’s easier for me to feel sentimental for a war documentary than for a heartbreaking movie, but this movie was so honest and vulnerable that I just couldn’t help it. I loved it so very much.

I don’t want to go scene by scene because I want you to feel the intensity of the movie by yourself, I will only talk about the most important things I see in this movie.

Let me start with praising the opening scene. It begins with both of the characters narrating everything they like about their spouse and why they like it, this is followed by some clips of them doing what they are narrating. This is just a perfect opening scene, because in a matter of eight or ten minutes you already know the characters and what they are like, she is disorganized but very efficient, he is very organized and focused on his things but very distant when it gets to showing his emotions. But one thing that is clear from the beginning is how much he cares for his son, I mean, she also cares for him, but he didn’t write much about how she expresses love to her son, and she wrote a whole paragraph about it. But the reason as to why I love this scene is because it sets the mood for what will happen, specially towards the end of the scene, when Nicole refuses to read what she wrote. This gives the impression that she is closed to the idea of trying to fix things and that she already has her intentions stated, divorce. Her repressed anger shows how they never talk about their problems, as we see later throughout the movie. So, this is perfect because we get the whole idea for the movie within the first ten minutes.

We find out very early on the movie that Nicole has her family in L.A. and that she is moving there because she got a roll on a TV show. Charlie stays because they are planning on bringing their play to Broadway so he needs to fix some things. Now, what is important about this is that she is not together with Charlie and she expresses this relaxation from him. She begins to talk to a friend about her problems and how they want to get a simple divorce with no problems or lawyers in between so that they don’t get more hurt than they already are. This friend tells Nicole that she should call Nora Fanshaw, a lawyer who specializes on divorce. Here’s where the real problems begin. Nicole has in mind that they said that they wouldn’t use any lawyers, but she also needs to talk to someone about her situation, so she decides to go see her. This whole scene is masterfully made, I loved every moment, Nora is a charismatic lawyer who tells you exactly what you want to hear, “it’s not you it’s him” “you don’t really need him” “you deserve better” “I will help you get everything you need”, she begins by saying how she is not dressed for the situation which makes your brain think “oh no, you look great” which is exactly what she wanted, continues by praising her work and telling her that Charlie is very talented, but she settles by saying one key thing, “he was lucky to have you”. This destroys her, because it makes her accept the fact that she is no longer his and that she needs to accept it, which by default puts her in a vulnerable state of mind and makes her fell the necessity of explaining herself. These words are key since they work so perfectly to develop the story in a credible way. This makes Nora win the conversation, since it gives her an opportunity to sell her image as this well intentioned friend who just wants your money. This shows exactly how lawyers work, they don’t tell you that you have a problem, they tell you they can help you with problems and that’s when you confess that you have a problem, even when you don’t necessarily need them. They are after your money, not after you.

The monologues in this movie are fantastic. They are filled with emotions and every time I remember one of them, I feel what they were feeling all over again. Plus, the directing methods that Noah Baumbach uses are very important to give it that feeling, they are simple cuts, with simple focuses, that help a simple plot develop into a great masterpiece. Also, the palette of colors that they use in this movie gives it this “spring” feeling where everything is starting to make sense in life, but when in reality it should have more of a “autumn” palette since it’s the end of something that had it’s summer already, like “500 Days of Summer” kind of palette.

Let’s move on to weeks later, we see how Nora now owns Nicole’s story and does everything she can to manipulate Charlie. Which reminds me, Charlie is also going through his own fights, he has gotten a great award for being a great stage director, but he feels like he is getting attacked for it. He begins to notice that distance that Nicole is putting between each other which in reality is also put by Nora as her representative lawyer. What we get after is a whole sequence of events that express what going through a divorce in the influence of a lawyer does. Nora recommends Nicole to visit every lawyer she can to try to lower all chances for Charlie to get a lawyer, and like that she get’s the full jurisdiction on their son. This shows us what dirty moves the lawyer makes their clients do. Nicole builds a wall between them, that in reality was built by Nora and other people, she begins to full on hate on Charlie for extreme and unknown reasons. (I mean, there are some evident reasons, but they change from slightly dislike to hate is very evident)

MARRIAGE STORY, from left: Adam Driver, Azhy Robertson, Scarlett Johansson, 2019. © Netflix / courtesy Everett Collection

After letting the lawyers fight the divorce Charlie and Nicole realize that they have gone too far, so they decide to take matters into their own hands. They meet at Charlies’ department to talk about what they want and what they think is better for Henry, their son. This is my favorite scene and the biggest reason is the character development that we see, the dialogue and, oh man, I can’t believe how incredible the script is. Their acting plus this script are what make the movie so very good. But to make this short, they say how they have noticed that things are not looking good and that they have both done wrong and that they want to fix this like they always said. So, they finally decide, for the first real time in the whole movie, why they are so hurt with each other. Now, you know what it looks like when you cut yourself in the arm and you are out camping so you don’t really have anything to heal it, so you just let it be, and it gets infected and starts to swell up and smell and fill up with pus and people notice it but they are not sure if they should tell you. Then one day, after you can’t keep on denying the smell of rotting tissue and the look of the pus on your wound, you decide to take it all out, and it is gross and disgusting and you can’t help but look somewhere else and you want to throw out. But then, it’s clean, and you feel better, you look at your arm and it just looks like a wounded arm, but it’s clean. This is what happened, they were hurting for small things since the beginning but they never talked about them because they found them unimportant, until it almost killed them and then they took it all out in one single shot. This is this scene, it is difficult to look at it, because of how intense and verbally violent it gets, it ranges from one moment to the other very quickly, as if these things had all been crossing their minds all at the same time. I just cried throughout the final sequence of it. Maybe it was more like I cried because of how great the script was, maybe a little bit of both.

Leaving it there, I just need to say that I am so amazed at how amazing this movie was, I didn’t expect to love a movie this much, specially since I already thought nothing could top Joker and The Lighthouse as the best movies of the year, for me personally anyway. But I am thankful that there could be another movie in 2019 that made me feel so many things and that I will most likely watch more than two times. I think it’s important to appreciate when a director or a group of people decide to make a movie that proves to be as much of a great and enjoyable movie just as it is a social commentary on how the world looks now at divorce. I personally felt like if the deep intention was to let us know how dependable we have become of having people mediate what we think and what we do so that we do it “correctly”, but ultimately to prove that divorce is more of a business than what it is a necessity.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this review. Tell me what you think about this movie? Keep in mind that this was my opinion, so feel free to let me know what your opinion is.

What should I review next? Tell me in the comment section below.

Published by nationsofthe21stday

I'm a pretty cool introvert, I think. I like books, short stories, and coffee. I'm trying to start a blog where I can share my opinion on movies, sometimes I feel like some movies are popular even when they don't deserve it and sometimes I feel like people watch movies, just because it's the "popular must-watch of the weekend". I want to give fresh and authentic opinions from a place of wanting to help. I also enjoy writing short stories, maybe one of these days I'll write something that makes me so proud that I will share it with you guys but for now, I'll share my opinion on movies.

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