Netflix changed the game of television programming with its original programming with shows like House of Cards and Orange Is The New Black. Last year, Netflix changed the game again, this time with original films, with the Oscar-nominated, slice of life film Roma. Those who thought the Alfonso Cuaron film was a one-off film for Netflix entering the awards game, you were wrong as Marriage Story aims to devastate your heart.
This review is Spoiler-Free.
Marriage Story follows the story of a married couple, Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole Barber (Scarlett Johansson), as they go through a coast-to-coast divorce and struggling to keep their family together for their young son.
The investment in the couple starts at the beginning as you see their origins, explaining what makes these two people love each other so much. The brilliant Brooklyn theater director and his actress muse are so crazy in love with each other that you can’t imagine what could drive them apart. Then, we get to the couple in present day, in an office with a mediator. Both are unable to write those same words and suffering from marital problems. From there, we watch as the once solid couple starts to crumble but keep things amicable for their son.
Not a huge spoiler but there isn’t a huge dramatic break that happens – it’s just everyday alienations and betrayals of a union that seemed to be working so well, until suddenly, it isn’t. The unraveling is interesting to watch; funny at times and devastating during others. I was so drawn into Charlie and Nicole’s world, it felt like it was committing emotional trespassing during intimate, human moments by just watching them.
As the marriage dissolved before my very eyes and lawyers started to come in, one land shark in heels (played by Laura Dern) for her and a tag team of a ruthless goodfella (Ray Liotta) and a semi-retiree (Alan Alda) for him. Questions about where their son will live, who will get more custody just makes the fight turn more ugly; your heart just breaks watching Charlie and Nicole fall apart and I hoped for a happy ending… only to realize that one wasn’t coming.
Director Noah Baumbach allows the film to ebb and flow while navigating the growing breach between the separated couple. There are long scenes where nothing dramatic happens, it’s just ordinary life and allowing the characters to breathe, and others where the hurt and animosity explodes, long-simmering feelings come to the surface splash onto the screen in a single look where a hurtful look or vicious word cannot be pulled back.
Johansson is extremely watchable as Nicole – a woman who thought she knew her life until an opportunity forces her to take a hard look outside of her family and what could have been. However, Driver is the true star of the film, providing Charlie with raw, tender feeling and emotion where you can emphasize with him even in his worst moments.
While not an original film, this is one that’s hard to watch in some moments. Marriage Story feels like something special on the screen: a movie that’s acted out similar to a play, making its intimacy an extreme act with each heart-wrecking moment, solidifying its place as one of the best movies of 2019.
Thanks for reading, everyone!
What are your thoughts about Marriage Story? If you haven’t seen it yet, I can’t praise this film enough and I hope you get a chance to enjoy it as well!
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