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“Marriage Story” Is Devastating And Noah Baumbach’s Best Film To Date

Nobody handles a couple breaking up quite like Noah Baumbach. Going back to The Squid and the Whale, the filmmaker depicted marriage and divorce with a razor sharp eye for detail. Now, he’s back in that realm with his best work to date in Marriage Story. The movie is absolutely brilliant, mixing in heartbreaking drama with some incredibly perceptive humor. The tightrope walked by Baumbach is rather incredible, fueled by two Oscar worthy performances by Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson. Without question, this is an Academy Award frontrunner right now, but more than that, it’s simply one of the best works of the year so far.

The film is a family/relationship drama. Director Charlie (Driver) and actress Nicole (Johansson) were once a young, loving, couple. Now, as they are in the process of being splintered by a separation, the pair is going to have to navigate life in a new way. Charlie is under the assumption that the New York based family would remain intact, creating as little change for their son Henry (Azhy Robertson) as possible. Nicole, however, has long resented the fact that Charlie never took her desire to move west seriously, so she opts to head back to Los Angeles, her hometown. Taking Charlie with her, Nicole heads home to her family, plotting her next move. When she gets a high profile divorce lawyer (Laura Dern) and serves Charlie with papers, the acrimony begins. So much is in the details here that the plot is best seen unfolding on its own, but it’s incredibly painful, real, and lived in. Baumbach writes and directs, while cinematography from Robbie Ryan, as well as a wonderful score from Randy Newman. Supporting players here include an amazing Alan Alda, alongside Julie Hagerty, Martha Kelly, Ray Liotta, Wallace Shawn, Merritt Wever, and more.

This may be the best pound for pound acting you’ll find in a 2019 release. Alan Alda, Laura Dern, Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, and Ray Liotta are a phenomenal quintet. Driver and Johansson, especially, have never been better. They stun, simply put. The supporting performances shine as well, and you can’t forget the below the line contributions from cinematographer Robbie Ryan, alongside composer Randy Newman. Then, there’s Noah Baumbach, expertly conducting it all. It’s truly an emotional symphony, from start to finish.

Marriage Story is devastating. No matter what kind of serious relationship you’ve had, Baumbach brilliantly and perceptively digs in to what brings a couple together, as well as what breaks them apart. Driver and Johansson, as mentioned above, do career best work, while Dern has sewn up Best Supporting Actress. You’ll laugh too, but this is a heartbreaking tale, so know that. Look for it to be a major Academy Award player, contending heavily in Best Picture, Best Actor for Driver, Best Actress for Johansson, Best Supporting Actress for Dern, and Best Original Screenplay for Baumbach. Look for Best Director, also for Baumbach, as well as Best Film Editing and Best Original Score to be in play as well. Right now, it’s the frontrunner in Supporting Actress and Original Screenplay, with Actor, Actress, and Picture itself certainly on the table.

Starting on Wednesday, and for a month, you can see Marriage Story in a theater near you. While it may not seem like as essential an in cinemas experience as The Irishman is, don’t let that dissuade you. Sure, it will play beautifully on Netflix, but before it winds up on the streaming service, it’s a moving experience that deserves to be seen in theaters. It’s one of the year’s best films and a top tier Oscar contender. Seek this flick out at all costs. You can thank me later…

Be sure to check out Marriage Story, in select theaters this week, before streaming on Netflix next month on December 6th!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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