October 11, 2019

VIFF 2019 | Dissolving A 'Marriage Story' on Netflix

"I can't believe I have to know you forever!"
VIFF 2019—Dramatist Noah Baumbach's latest heartbreaking ode to his own relationship experiences, Marriage Story, so movingly recreates the emotional journey of a bi-coastal divorce on a young family of artists in often devastating fashion. What starts rather amicably turns ugly quickly due to mostly circumstances surrounding both the economies and realities of legal marital dissolution proceedings that draw out the histories of its characters to emotional extremes.

A-listers Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver star as Nicole and Charlie, a freshly separated Los Angeles actress and New York theatre director, who are forced to navigate the tricky waters of separating their lives and deciding where they and their young son (Azhy Robertson) will live. While it's easy to initially sympathize with Charlie at first due to his more congenial nature, Nicole's motivations and interior life are so richly revealed through monologues and Johannson's range of emotions.

Structured like a series of one-act plays with the characters themselves involved in theatre work, Marriage Story enables its screwball comedy from the sheer pain expressed—an extension of the love they maintain for their son. Both perspectives are equally weighed over the whole of the film despite contrivances and realities about where their family is located and confusion about unseen marital agreements quickly set aside.

Scarlett Johansson Adam Driver Noah Baumbach | VIFF 2019

I can't remember the last time an actor got a hero shot introduction in a drama but once Laura Dern enters the film as Nicole's ferocious lawyer, things get both deadly serious and broadly comic fast. In contrast, Charlie's lawyers, first Ray Liotta as straight-talking shark and then Alan Alda as the defeated realist, are sublime in their roles as proxies escalating and broadening the feelings of their clients.

Baumbach continues his string of joyful relationship comedies stemming from troubling personal situations. How he dramatizes the saga of divorce proceedings over the actual process of divorce itself makes its material so rich from both drama and humour. Johannson and Driver are never better both sparring and bonding over the love they felt for each other and continue to feel raising their son.

Marriage Story screened at the 2019 Vancouver International Film Festival as part of the Panorama stream, also screens at Vancity Theatre starting November 29th and at the Rio Theatre before streaming on Netflix starting December 6th.

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