Who knew that arguably both the best war film and the best comedy of 2019 would be a divorce drama? 'Marriage Story' follows a divorcing couple (Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson), and the struggles they face while going through the process from different sides of the country. Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta, Azhy Robertson, […]
Who knew that arguably both the best war film and the bestcomedy of 2019 would be a divorce drama?
'Marriage Story' follows a divorcing couple (Adam Driver andScarlett Johansson), and the struggles they face while going through the processfrom different sides of the country. Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta, AzhyRobertson, Julie Hagerty and Merritt Wever also star as Noah Baumbach writesand directs.
I've been big fan of Adam Driver's for a while and it wasreally nice to see him earn an Academy Award nomination last year for his workin 'BlacKkKlansman.' Most people know him for his work as Kylo Ren in the new StarWars trilogy, but this is his fourth collaboration with Baumbach and he gives acareer-best performance. Like the film itself, Driver jumps from happy to confusedto angry at the drop of a hat, and perfectly conveys all the emotions that onegoes through when getting a divorce. He has one scene where he finally explodesand it is one of those sequences that you simply feel drained watching unfold,because of how raw it comes across as.
Scarlett Johansson also gives arguably a career-best turn, andgets to show some actual humor and emotion that the likes of the Avengers filmsmay not allow her. She has one monologue in particular that will likely be usedas her Oscar reel where she recounts her marriage to Driver and where thingsfell apart. We haven't known these characters for all of 20 minutes and alreadywe feel let down alongside her. I think that at the end of the day this isDriver's movie, but Johansson gets plenty of scenes that she commands.
The supporting cast is all great, too. The scene-stealing,scenery-chewing duo of Laura Dern and Ray Liotta are great fun and they have somewonderful lawyer banter, and are two people you love to hate. Alan Alda alsoturns in a fantastic performance as one of Driver's lawyers, who like Driverwants the divorce process to be as amicable as possible but Dern is out for blood;Alda's mild-mannered old man is just so great because the character feels so*real*.
I really enjoyed Baumbach's 2017 film 'The MeyerowitzStories' and thought the script there was great; this one is even better. Baumbachis an old-fashion director who likes to have actors follow his written word andaction to the tee, and the end result is a film that both breaks your heart andmakes your stomach hurt from laughing. Like 'Annie Hall' there is a 'LosAngeles vs New York City' storyline and how the cities compare and contrast ('you'dlove it in LA, there's just so much more space than New York!'). There areplenty of dramatic moments that may hit more at home for those who have beenmarried, gotten divorced and/or are a child of divorce (I check none of the threeboxes), but even for the casual young person the ideas of love, struggle and betrayalwill resonate.
There really isn't much wrong with this film. It is 136minutes but it flies by; honestly the editing by Jennifer Lame (who also cuttogether this year's brilliant 'Midsommar') is quick but also specific when ithas to be. Mixing violins and flutes, the score by Randy Newman is whimsical andmelancholic at some parts and thrilling at others, depending on which of thecouple the film is focused on, and I kept thinking how the music reminded me of'Toy Story.'
'Marriage Story' is hands-down among 2019's best films andit has everything a film should have: uncontrived drama, organic characters andgenuine laughs. I can't wait to be able to watch it whenever I want once itstarts streaming on Netflix and for it to reach the biggest audience possible.Baumbach has made something truly special here, a film that is built to lastand only grow more personal as time goes on.
Critic's Rating: 9/10