We Just Watched… Marriage Story (2019)

Marriage Story is a 2019 drama film written and directed by Noah Baumbach. It follows a couple as they go through an increasingly messy divorce with a young son at the centre. Both sides have done some wrong, but both sides are sympathetic too. The film is another huge win for Netflix. It stars Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson, with a supporting cast that includes Laura Dern, Alan Alda, and Ray Liotta.

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Tom says: I came to this movie as an Adam Driver/Scarlett Johansson/Laura Dern/Ray Liotta fan, rather than as a Noah Baumbach fan. For some reason, his movies have never really done it for me. They’ve always been seemingly too hipster-y for my tastes. After Marriage Story, however, I’ll definitely have to go back and reevaluate his filmography. 

Marriage Story is heart-rending and hilarious in equal measure and both leads show a crazy amount of range across the film. Driver especially shocked me with just how good he was (and I already knew he was fantastic). The scene where he breaks down after the argument with Johansson is heart breaking. It’s so real and raw and sadly all to relatable for most people watching. At the same time, he delivers one of the funniest movie moments for me this year in the scene where he cuts his arm with his keyring boxcitter. Johansson is awesome too, and gets the harder job as I think a lot of people will initially side with Driver over her (at least at first). The scene with her explaining her situation to Dern’s divorce lawyer is phenomenonal. The biggest strength of her and Driver though is that both feel real, which in turn makes the film all the more resonant. A great script and superb direction lift the film into the echelons of future classic cinema. Look out for this one come Oscar time.

Jack saysMarriage Story is a roller-coaster of shitty decisions, tough choices, and family drama – but with an ultimately heartfelt message. It makes you want to grab your significant other and hold on for dear life. The performances by the two leads are real, and the characters feel flawed and relatable. But they’re also just a teensy bit over-the-top too, often veering into genuine laugh-out-loud comedy and near-slapstick. This keeps the film from being an unbearable slog and makes it into something altogether more charming and enjoyable.

The two leads are stunning, with any of their scenes together feeling like scene of the year. To get more than one scene like that in a film is a testament to their talent. The best thing about their relationship – and the film as a whole – is that it’s not easy to take sides. Both are wrong at times, both are often right. It’s far from being black and white and it makes the film something worth pondering, long after the credits roll and the tears have dried. But the whole ensemble is great, with Laura Dern being the standout (and attracting the most awards attention).

I was concerned that watching a couple’s marriage dissolve for over two hours would be a bit dull, but with just the right amount of comedy and likeable characters, it’s far more entertaining than I expected. But don’t let that fool you, it’s also devastating at times. 

Becca says: All I knew about this film going in was it had Ben Swolo in it – sorry, I should say Kylo Ren, I mean Adam Driver. Oh, and how well Adam (I feel we’re basically on first-name terms after watching this) and Scarlett Johansson can act. All I knew going out, was I was snotty nosed and blurry eyed.

Each part of the divorce proceedings was tense and uncomfortable, which was a beautiful thing to get across on film. The torture begins nicely, with the couple speaking about all the things they like about each other. She always listens and sees good in people, he is a great Dad – all lovely. You feel good about these people and you know what? You feel good about yourself!

Then things slowly turn sour. Suddenly, its lawyers, speak of custody, betrayals, and you feel yourself bracing – and yet the film is still peppered with nice scenes, comedy moments and family shots. Then, along comes the meme-ready, emotion-filled climax, followed by a moment of reflection – the aftermath. And that’s when you sob because you feel like you’ve been on their journey, you’ve felt the tension, regret, and pain. You cry because you wonder if your parents’ divorce was like this, or you reflect on your own life. If that sort of personal reflection triggered by character connection isn’t the goal reaction of a film like this, what is?

Any film that can make me feel something has already won a greater achievement than any award in my books – but I suppose they may see an award or two at the Oscars as icing on the cake.

P.S. Lots of love for Laura Dern.

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