By Brennan Atkins
Arts & Features Editor
The latest film from Noah Baumbach, “Marriage Story,” is a shining example that Netflix’s original films continue to climb in quality.
The film stars Adam Driver as Charlie, a theater director in New York, and Scarlett Johansson as Nicole, an actress in theater and television.
Nicole gets a lawyer for the divorce after she explicitly states to Charlie that no lawyers will be involved. This, mixed with the fact they live in different states starts to take a toll on him financially. She goes behind his back, and doesn’t talk to him about the problems she’s having. Charlie might not even be able to visit his kid.
But Charlie is far from innocent – many of the choices Nicole makes in the film are simply made because Charlie never listens to her wants or desires. The life she lived was Charlie’s. They moved to wherever he wanted, no matter how many times she requested other places. If Nicole never went to a lawyer, odds are, this divorce situation wouldn’t have worked out for her at all. Nicole goes against him in this film because she wants something to work in her favor for a change.
“Marriage Story” shines with its leads – both of them arguably give their best performances to date – they do such a realistic job of capturing the anxiety-ridden process of a divorce.
While we never thought we’d say this for a Netflix film, their Oscar nominations for best actor and best actress are well deserved.
Both make mistakes that send the other into a deeper depression. Both refuse to talk to each other, and hired lawyers and convinced family to argue for them.
They want to stay friends, and initially don’t act as if there are any real issues. Instead of expressing their grievances, they each vent their struggles to their lawyers – lawyers they don’t even want to pay for. You slowly see both characters become more and more vocal about each other’s flaws.
One of the best words to describe this film is uncomfortable – but that’s not a bad thing. When Charlie and Nicole shout their hearts out, they are at their worst. Months of pent-up anger is released in minutes, and it’s not something anyone would feel comfortable watching in real life.
The soundtrack of the film fluctuates between somber piano melodies, to playful arrangements of string instruments. However, the silence in some of the arguments make every bit of the dialogue memorable.
Just like a bad argument can linger in one’s thoughts, this movie’s dialogue accomplishes the same. The writing achieved by Baumbach is at its best, and we’re hungry to see more from him.
While many are likely to favor one parent over the other, the film doesn’t pick favorites. Both parents have plenty of redeeming qualities on top of their clear mistakes.
It’s not all misery though. There’s quite a few wholesome and humorous moments, which both simultaneously ease your emotions, while also making the sad moments hit all the harder once you’ve recovered.
While Charlie and Nicole are consistently reaching new lows, the various lawyers involved in the process, played by Laura Dern and Alan Alda, are practically comical. Nothing is personal with them – they’re experienced in divorce cases, and they’ve seen all this before. They may appear aggressive in court, but outside the case, they often switch to a carefree and lighthearted personalities.
“Marriage Story” shows the reality of divorce – how it may be terrifying, may be ugly, and it may be painful, but no matter how hard it seems, you will ultimately recover and move on.
Noah Baumbach creates an oddly beautiful story out of this grim situation, evoking a strong, uplifting energy to what feels like a hopeless situation.