Director: Noah Baumbach

Starring: Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson

Year: 2019

The best film of the year is here, and it’s not even surprising.  Combining what Noah Baumbach can do behind the camera with what Adam Driver can do on screen was a guaranteed power move, and the result is special; duh.  The pair have worked together before, but not like this, not this intimately, and not in front of such a perfect backdrop of supporting actors and emotional story arc.  Marriage Story is a construction of so many wonderful components into a creation that is equally lovely, a movie that only gets better when you pick apart the pieces, but also stands alone as a beautiful, singular work of art.  Destined to be nominated for Best Picture, and hopefully with the chance to win over some much bigger dogs, this film spoke directly to my heart, worked all the right angles, and should be considered not just one of the tops of 2019, but of the decade.

Charlie and Nicole are getting a divorce, and it’s not going to be pretty.  They live in New York City, they have a son named Henry, they are very much in love, but things just haven’t worked out as they planned, and that’s nobody’s fault.  So the separation begins amicably, both of them sad but aware; Charlie knows that the passion is gone, Nicole knows that she needs her own life for once.  Charlie is a theatre director, a genius, but Nicole has always been in his shadow, despite early fame on the silver screen.  Now she wants to move to L.A., make her own mark, and raise Henry there, which begins the downward spiral toward eventual contention and extreme anger.  So sets the stage for a love story that ends a tragedy, featuring two confused souls who don’t know how to fight for what they want, and aren’t sure what it is that will make them truly happy.

Marriage Story should be on the short list for Best Picture nominees, but Adam Driver might be the #1 contender for Best Actor; it’s in large part his performance that makes this film magical.  The strength is there from the director, the stage was set for success early; the city, the couple, some funny moments, some utter heartbreak.  But Driver picked up the project and put it in rarified air, his performance is among the best you will ever see, and I can’t wait to watch this movie again and again and again.  Charlie is so broken, so sad, and has such magnificent subtlety to show us; just watching movies by himself (Money Pit and Legend, if you can catch them, which spoke to me perfectly, since those 80s flicks are among my classic favorites) or singing Sondheim with his friends (my favorite playwright) or screaming at the top of his lungs in frustration (in a scene that you have to feel to believe).  Those moments were so powerful, so honest, that audiences will be swept away, and might forget that what they’re seeing isn’t real life.  It is for some I guess, it was for me when my parents were divorced, which only helped me feel more connected and invested.

And I haven’t even mentioned Scarlett Johansson, who was great herself, as was the rest of the Cool Cameo Cast: Merritt Wever, Laura Dern, Ray Liotta, Julie Hagerty, Wallace Shawn, Alan Alda.  Driver stood out, but everyone pitched in, was funny, and helped us process the pain by providing a caricature to juxtapose with the harsh reality of the central situation.  Marriage Story is a Noah Baumbach/Wes Anderson, NYC drama, without whimsy, with high emotion, painted for us in a beautiful light, and told from start to finish with no apologies for the heartache is causes us.  You might find yourself in tears by the end, but you will also feel flushed of whatever was clogged up inside you brain, like a splash of cold water that wakes you up from a bad dream.  With awards season admittedly not over, this film finds itself at the very top of my list, and I’m not sure any other movie has the power to displace it.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆



By ochippie

Writer, Critic, Dad Columbus, Ohio, USA Denver Broncos, St. Louis Cardinals Colorado Avalanche, Duke Blue Devils