TIFF Film #2 of 8
I’ve been a fan of Noah Baumbach’s work for a long time. When I was younger and just starting to get into film, The Squid and the Whale was one of the first ones I can remember seeing that absolutely wowed me. Frances Ha is one of my all-time favourites. So to say that I had high expectations going into Marriage Story might be a bit of an understatement, but I am delighted to say that it exceeded them in every way. Starting with an impeccable screenplay written by Baumbach himself, all the way up to powerhouse performances from its lead and supporting actors, Marriage Story is a damn near perfect film. Chronicling the tail end of a once happy marriage now spiralling out of control into an increasingly contentious divorce, Marriage Story is nonetheless a love story. Charlie (Adam Driver) is a prominent stage director in New York, and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) is his soon-to-be ex-wife and the former leading lady of his theatre group, now attempting to further her acting career with a TV pilot in Los Angeles. What this will mean for the future of their family, and more importantly, for their young son Henry, remains to be seen. We see them desperately trying to hang on to the bits of the life they built together that are still important, while at the same time trying to revert back to the lives they had before they met. And it is… heartbreaking. Noah Baumbach has written these characters in a way that they feel so fully fleshed out and three-dimensional and flawed, that it’s not hard at all to believe that these are two real people who were once so in love with each other, who now, if not for their son, would likely never speak to each other ever again. But it’s in the absence of that love that we find this truly unique kind of love story. All of this isn’t to say that this is a doom and gloom divorce film in the vein of Blue Valentine, for example. There’s certainly elements like that, and there’s one scene in particular near the end that is just viscerally upsetting, but this film is also hilarious! The audience I was sat with was laughing hysterically throughout. So, bring tissues, but just know that there’s enough comedy in here as well to balance it out beautifully. Before I wrap up, I absolutely need to talk about these performances. This is the best performance Adam Driver has even given, and he has been on fire lately. Seriously, he is nothing short of incredible here. Scarlett Johansson is the best she’s been, certainly since Lost In Translation, but this may also be her best work ever. Alan Alda and Laura Dern play Charlie and Nicole’s lawyers respectively, and let’s just say we could be looking at the first time one film has received nominations in all four acting categories at the Academy Awards since 2013 (American Hustle). Two other aspects that I think warrant a mention here are Robbie Ryan’s beautiful cinematography and Randy Newman’s delightful score. Expect this one to be a huge player this awards season. Like I said, a damn near perfect film.