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A-Ron’s New Movie Reviews: Marriage Story

Top 10 Film Of 2019! Premieres today on Netflix. Writer and director Noah Baumbach lays his life out on the screen literally (as it’s based on his real life divorce) and gives us a tale about love, marriage, divorce and parenthood. “Marriage Story” is a beautifully detailed story about the lives of it’s couple Charlie and Nicole, featuring masterclass Oscar worthy performances from Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver. Baumbach is inspired by the works of Woody Allen, creating an intimate, raw, real and brilliant human drama. This film was made for Oscar wins! 

Many filmmakers make films that hit close to home, that are personal to them. The newest Netflix film “Marriage Story” from writer and director Noah Baumbach, is such a personal film to the filmmaker’s life, that it plays like he is flipping through the pages of his own personal diary. 

“Marriage Story” comes from an intensely personal place, with Baumbach bringing his own real life divorce with ex-wife actress Jennifer Jason Leigh (“The Hateful Eight”, “Fast Times At Ridgemont High”) as the subject of his latest film. Always a talented director and writer, with a filmography that includes: “The Squid and The Whale”, “While We’re Young” and “Frances Ha”. All of his films are wonderful and each have it’s own special qualities, but “Marriage Story” is the film that will make the case that Baumbach is one of the greats.

“Marriage Story” is one of the years 10 best films of 2019 and Baumbach’s best work as a screenwriter and director. His war of the words film about love, marriage, divorce and parenthood is beautifully detailed in the lives of it’s couple Charlie and Nicole. Baumbach’s script is a delicately woven divorce story told with great empathy for both sides. While no one is the villain here. We’re not witnessing the beginning of the beginning. This is the beginning of the end…

“Marriage Story” reminds me a lot of two films about a couple whose lives together slowly fall apart, leading to divorce. Rob Reiner’s 1999 adult drama “The Story Of Us” with Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer and director Sam Mendes’ “Revolutionary Road” with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. As much as I love Reiner’s film Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story” is more along the lines of “Revolutionary Road”. Sharply written, the acting is a masterclass, it’s raw and real that you can actually feel the pain Baumbach’s leading characters endure and inflict on one another. 

I have not seen a better-acted movie this year as Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver display the best examples of masterclass acting. It feels like Johansson and Driver are reinventing themselves up on the screen right before our eyes. 

Like Baumbach, Adam Driver’s Charlie is a brilliant and celebrated director (though Charlie’s medium is the stage). Like Jennifer Jason Leigh, Scarlett Johansson’s Nicole comes from a showbiz family and starred in a hugely popular, raunchy teen comedy. Baumbach and Leigh had a son together as do Charlie and Nicole.

Johansson displays areas of honesty for her character, working wonderfully with both Baumbach’s smart screenplay and generating an authentic relationship with Adam Driver. He is expressive and raw, delivering the absolute best performance of his career. Both Johansson and Driver have every right to earn themselves a best actor and actress Oscar nomination. 

Not a single performance here is wasted, everyone in the cast including the supporting players turn in outstanding work such as Ray Liotta in his best role in years, a stellar performance by Laura Dern, in a deserving Best Supporting Actress nomination and a late career best performance by the legendary Alan Alda. 

Baumbach concentrates on the procedural horrors of divorce, where Nicole (Johansson) hires Nora (Laura Dern), a legal shark who shuts down an amicable resolution to the union. Charlie (Driver) is blindsided by the escalation, forced to not only take up residence in L.A. to have a chance at custody, but he works through a series of lawyers, finding comfort with Bert (Alan Alda) and aggression with Jay (Ray Liotta). 

The professionals burn through cash and build walls around Nicole and Charlie, giving “Marriage Story” scenes of powerlessness as normal people are faced with courtroom theatrics, which leaves the clients exposed and broke. Baumbach does a great job at showing not only the emotional complexities of a divorce, but also the economic devastation it causes. 

Baumbach’s aim to navigate the legal system of divorce is fascinating, detailing the brutality of the system, that greatly complicates communication between Nicole and Charlie. The funnier moments in “Marriage Story” are reminiscent of 1970s/1980s Woody Allen. In-fact the whole feature feels like a Woody Allen project, which isn’t a bad thing. Baumbach delivers intimate work in creating a brilliant movie, that is one of the year’s 10 best. 

GRADE: ★★★★★ (5 out of 5)

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About Aron Medeiros

Aron Medeiros
Aron Medeiros lives on the beautiful island of Maui. He is a member of The Hawaii Film Critics Society, movie critic for Maui Watch, a commentator and cast member of the NerdWatch pod cast. He is a 2003 graduate from King Kekaulike High School. His favorite film of all time is “Back To The Future”. He has worked at Consolidated Kaahumanu Theaters for nearly 13 years as a Sales Associate and making his way up to Assistant Manager. He has loved movies since he was a young boy, learning about movies from his Grandfather and being self taught.

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