Trailers promoting Noah Baumach’s film suggested with a light tone, that the movie will be a typical melodrama about two people, trying to find a sense in love after a long marriage. Cheerful music, lots of laughter, tears and a family-friendly atmosphere – something we get plenty of in the world of cinema each year. Was it a deliberate move of the director, or just a typical Netflix promotion to watch the movie, in reality, „Marriage Story” resembles a sad drama about human emotions, rather than a cheerful family-friendly story.
The plot is simple, but that does not mean it’s cliché. The heroes of the marital story are two artists – him (Adam Driver), a recognized New York theatre director with major achievements, and her (Scarlett Johansson), a talented actress on his team. A child, unfulfilled ambitions, broken promises and that which I mentioned earlier: a lack of willingness to understand the other person. Neither of the two wants a crisis, but in such circumstances, it seems inevitable.
In conflicts, it is often said that „both parties are guilty”. This is not actually true. After watching „Marriage Story” there is no doubt in who was to blame for the development of the situation, and who was the first one to stop listening. Although in this case the problem was probably built from the basis of the relationship, it is still unfortunate that it had to come to that.
Generic scenes are a strong point, they are tinted with many shades and nuances, without dominant tones, a comedy skillfully interwoven with dialogues and body language. Although we are watching the breakup of a marriage, we don’t see shattered dishes nor arguments, rather, despite many spoken statements, the inability to understand and forgive. Acting is admirable. It’s satisfying watching celebrities taking on prosaic roles, far from the world of Hollywood cinema.
Scarlett Johansson is a very ordinary, quiet person. Adam Driver created one of the truest male portrayals without a retouch. In the background, Laura Dern enchants the role of a sophisticated lawyer, similarly to the somewhat forgotten Ray Liotta. Julie Hagerty as Charlie’s mother-in-law is a person of her own. She is just as loving and kind, as she is naively funny.
The phrase „just like in real life” is probably one of the most overused in the history of criticism, but it is difficult not to use it when writing about the changes in tone throughout „Marriage Story”. At one point we laugh, at another point, we can hardly hold back tears. At one time we cheer for the husband, then empathize with his wife the next, but at the end of the day we still want Nicole and Charlie to get back together. The actors – Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver – manage to create such fantastic, full-scale characters (and at the same time so brilliant and sexy, that it’s hard to be surprised by their childminder, who at the mere sight of them says: „you’re so attractive!”) that you would simply love to have them around you. Even at the cost of accompanying them to their divorce.