Rating – ★★★★½
A late contender for film of the year. Baumbach’s take on love, separation and eventual divorce paints a painfully unsettling image, that sets itself far from anything else to come out this year.
This isn’t an easy film to sit through. From the get-go, Marriage Story demonstrates the harsh realities of two people nearing the end of a relationship, which isn’t helped by a son in which they both want custody.
Baumbach’s poignant tale hangs on the balance of its lead performers. There’s no exuberant set pieces or big budget moments, it’s just two actors at their prime, delivering line after line to perfection, from a script that is often distressing and uncomfortable. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson are at the height of their careers here and you feel and believe every conversation, argument and attempt of reasoning is genuine and real. Both bound for gold during the awards season, it would come as zero surprise for either to receive the highest of accolades.
The note worthy performances don’t end with just these two however. Laura Dern and Ray Liotta playing the hardball lawyers, representing our leads, are responsible for the other half of the movies most memorable scenes. My only issue is, with the runtime clocking in at just over two hours, I’d have happily stretched the movie for at least another twenty minutes just to see these powerhouse performers go blow for blow in the courtroom for a bit longer.
Baumbach’s direction is somewhat steered by his own life experiences. It’s a powerfully heart-wrenching and exhausting endeavour, that can go from being funny, to awkward, to heartbreaking. Often all in the same scene too. Despite the tough situation in which the film predominantly stands on, it isn’t afraid to crack a joke or two (even if it is promptly squandered by its darker narrative stature). Accompanying Baumbach is a soundtrack offered up by the legendary Randy Newman, that despite all the desolation on screen, often feels welcoming and bizarrely euphoric. Softening the big blows on screen.
Marriage Story is a love film, very much unlike most. It takes a different angle that dives into the perspectives of both parties involved and the struggles with their new lives. It’s a tough pill to swallow, with even the smallest of details playing a big role in the shape of its story. Undeniably my pick for Netflix’ best of 2019.