Marriage Story - sharp script and wonderful central performances but don't expect a happy ending.
4.5 out of 5
I have a complaint. Marriage Story conned me. I went on to this not knowing the plot and not having seen the trailer. I did know some of the buzz about the film and the performances of its stars Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson. The film begins with each character reading a love letter to the other over a montage of moments highlighted on the letter. It was warm. It was sweet. It was like a big mug of your favourite hot chocolate. Then wham! Reality strikes.
There have been good divorce films before, one only has to think of the 1979 OSCAR-winning Kramer vs Kramer which garnered Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay for Robert Benton plus Best Actor awards for each of its leads, Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep. Marriage Story is better and I hope it picks up some awards come awards season. Indeed at time of writing it has picked up 4 Golden Globe nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Screenplay.
Marriage Story is written and directed by Noah Baumbach. The story focusses on Charlie (Driver) and Nicole (Johansson) who decide to separate and then proceed to divorce. Like Kramer vs Kramer, the film highlights the people affected - the couple and their son, and the extended family. We also get introduced to the lawyers played by Laura Dern, Alan Alda and Ray Liotta - all of whom relish their role and understand the spotlight is on the couple at the centre of the drama.
To say the script is spot on is an understatement. The dialogue is realistic and delivered by two actors who are giving their all. That said, Adam Driver surprised me more. It was great to see both stars getting their teeth into good roles. It is heartbreaking to see how two people who were obviously so in love fall apart. There is a moving scene with them returning on the New York subway from a party and they stand apart.
This is a splice of real human life and, for me, the films strengths lie in the script and the two central performances - have I said that before?
Driver and Johansson are unbelievable good in this. Driver has established himself as a real dramatic actor. Johansson has at last decided to act as we know she can. Hands up who remembers her role in Lost In Translation? Nowadays she is better known for her superhero outings which does not do her justice. I'm happy to report she is excellent.
Marriage Story is available now on Netlfix.