Writer and director Noah Baumbach provides audiences with a cinematic work of realistic art in this comedic drama surrounding the break up of a marriage. Both Adam Driver (Charlie Barber) and Scarlet Johansson (Nicole Barber) deliver stellar performances as two artists seeking intellectual growth and personal fulfillment in a relationship that has grown stagnant. From the intense method approach to acting to the film’s satisfying conclusion, Marriage Story is a wonder ours and heartbreaking chamber piece that is worthy of praise in a medium dominated by big budget special effects films.
The true anchor that holds this work together are its stunning array of characters. Driver stars as a New York playwright and theater director who is oblivious to his wife’s unhappiness in New York. Johansson is a former Hollywood actress who so desperately desires a return to her west coast roots and major film roles. Such tensions rise when their son Azy Robertson is whisked away by his mother to LA while she shoots a pilot. This is by far an intense plot device that serves as the film’s inciting incident throughout the piece.
From the acting right down to the directing, Marriage Story is symbolic of kitchen sink style realism that pays homage to the classical works of legendary writer Paddy Chayefsky. The film is at times numerous and many moments tragic as both parents try to remain civil for the sake of their child during the divorce proceedings. Ray Liotta (Jay Marotta) and Laura Dern ( Nora Fanshaw) round out the cast, as opposing divorce attorneys who keep both protagonists in the middle of their tensions. Every character fits perfectly in this film, and the director utilizes each to their fullest potential.
Marriage Story does have it share of shortcomings, albeit minor ones. The overarching arc is typical of a family drama and the soundtrack and editing is nothing to brag about. Their is little to speak of in terms of plot twists and the ending requires a greater degree of acceptance by the viewer. Overall the film is consistent throughout and is a true work of art.
Marriage Story is a great film simply because it holds truth as its highest principle. The acting, writing, and directing is mesmerizing as Driver breaks free of his past roles and harkens back to the gritty realism of method actors of past. Baumbach does not use fancy camera techniques or elaborate musical scores to illustrate an emotion or feel. Rather, the film is held up by its emotionality and the attachment audiences have to the plight of both sides of this messy divorce. Truly a spellbinding work of cinema verite.