Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

'Marriage Story' Devastates You (in a Good Way)

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

'Marriage Story' Devastates You (in a Good Way)

Article excerpt

Like the "Saving Private Ryan" of divorce dramedies, "Marriage Story" puts its audience into the thick of all the complicated feelings, bitter domestic rumbles and lawyer fees that come with such a dissolution, with enough hopeful and hilarious moments to balance out the emotional devastation.

Writer/director Noah Baumbach's spectacular effort (opening in New York and L.A. Nov. 6 and streaming on Netflix Dec. 6) is a highlight reel for everyone involved: career-defining work from Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, astounding supporting turns courtesy of Laura Dern and Alan Alda, and a masterclass from Baumbach.

Over a brilliantly paced and thoughtful two and a quarter hours, the filmmaker lets his two main characters explain what they love about each other before chronicling how it all falls apart and everybody must rise anew.

Charlie (Driver) is an up-and-coming New York stage director and Nicole (Johansson) is an actress in his company with screen dreams, yet there's as much untold resentment as artistry in their marriage. Nicole wants a divorce and she decides to head back home to California with their young son Henry (Azhy Robertson) as the couple works things out. The move leaves Charlie reeling, as he juggles directing his latest play with cross-country jaunts to find the right divorce attorney and attempt to keep some semblance of a relationship with his son.

While it's easy to take Charlie's side early in the film, since the viewer spends more time with him, Baumbach artfully reveals the internal lives of each of his leads - their wants, their needs, their idiosyncrasies - so that the viewer gets to know both Charlie and Nicole equally.

Which means it's all the more disconcerting when the divorce gets petty and ugly . It comes to a ferocious head in one shattering scene that begins with them just wanting to talk in Charlie's L.A. apartment and, before you know what's happening, crescendoes into a heartbreaking melee of unbridled venom and anger. It's a memorable piece of tear-jerking annihilation that leaves its characters - and the viewer - absolutely exhausted. …

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