A stage director named Charlie Barber (Adam Driver) and his actor wife Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) struggle through a gruelling, coast-to-coast divorce that pushes them to their personal and creative extremes.
Noah Baumbach is a filmmaker that I deeply admire. Every single one of his films to date
have been extremely exceptional and one of the many reasons as to why is because that they all feature characters that feel shockingly real and grounded. Whether its the titular Frances Ha or the Meyerowitz family in his 2017 feature The Meyerowitz Stories, every character featured in his films are written so expertly. They all feel like they could be real people walking among us.
Baumbach is somebody that is ridiculously skilled at making movies about people, and making them feel real but still managing to have a dramatic core as well as emotional beats. Making films about people that are this gripping can be a difficult task, but he makes it look easy. A lot of his films are ones that I think are phenomenal, so I was excited to see what his latest feature Marriage Story would have to offer. I went into it expecting it to be great based on the incredible response it has been getting. I was not expecting it to be the best in his filmography, but it is.
This is a painfully real movie. Nothing about this story feels faked and none of it falls into tired clichés that movies centered around relationships especially, fall into. It is a story that is masterfully crafted and is so heart-wrenchingly real and powerful that it can be difficult to watch at times, because it is just so real. I have never had to witness a divorce in my life, but even still, this movie was deep and thought-provoking and it left me staring at the credits in awe.
Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson are big actors. That would be an understatement honestly. I have been familiar with them and their work for years now. Driver is highly recognized for his portrayal of Kylo Ren in the Star Wars sequel trilogy and Johansson is widely known for her performance as Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
They are terrific actors and they are ones that I know of. Yet every single time they were on screen, I never once saw the actors. I saw the characters. They feel so realistic and its thanks to the writing and direction of Baumbach. Once again, he proves to be one of the most talented people working in the industry today, and he directed their performances beautifully.
Both of them deserve to be nominated for Best Actor and Best Actress at the upcoming Academy Awards and it would be an utter travesty if their work goes unrecognized this year. There was a scene towards the third act of the film involving Driver and Johansson, that left me completely speechless. That is not an exaggeration. During this sequence, my mouth was literally open and tears began to stream down my face. It was one of the most powerful scenes I have ever watched, and Driver and Johansson deliver two of the greatest performances I have ever seen.
It is also beautifully shot by its director of photography Robbie Ryan, who previously shot the aforementioned Baumbach picture The Meyerowitz Stories. Virtually every frame in Marriage Story looks so gorgeous that they could all be paintings. These scenes are also accompanied with a mesmerizing score by Randy Newman, who you probably know best for his music from the Toy Story series of films. The music here is beautiful, uplifting, and heartbreaking all at the same time.
Jennifer Lame edited this picture and it is one of her best efforts yet. She served as the editor on my all-time favorite film, Ari Aster’s Hereditary. No wonder why this film was so skillfully edited.
Finally, I have to say, I never once felt the running time here. This is a movie that is two hours and sixteen minutes long, which to me is not that long, but even still, I felt like I could have watched two hours and sixteen minutes more. It was that captivating and investing.
Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story is a heartbreaking and painfully real picture that boasts two powerhouse performances from Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson.
Overall Grade: A+
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout and sexual references
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta, Julie Hagerty, Meritt Wever
Directed by: Noah Baumbach
Distributed by: Netflix
Running Time: 136 minutes