Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Marriage Story

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Alan Alda
Director: Noah Baumbach
Running Time: 2 hours, 16 minutes
Rating: R

I have to admit, the first thing I thought of while watching this movie was, "I'm glad I'm not married." My second thought was, "Thankfully, I've dodged a few bullets." You'll view this film with a furrowed brow the entire time, watching two desperately lost people navigate a divorce, while also arguing over custody of their only son. I didn't think Scar Jo and Adam Driver had the best chemistry or were necessarily the right picks for this film. I also thought the movie was a little too "indie for indie's sake". Strong supporting cast members were a welcomed departure from watching the two main characters scream at each other and look miserable. Aside from one super-high stakes scene and some nice moments from Mr. Driver, I wasn't too thrilled by this movie. It was just too stressful. I won't be watching it again, or rooting for it during awards show season.

Charlie and Nicole met doing theatre in NYC, fell in love, got married, had a kid, fell out of love and decided to get a divorce. They initially agree to separate amicably and involve no lawyers. It's apparent that the two still care for each other, her so more than him it seems. You can imagine how contentious things become when Nicole decides to move to LA to be closer to her family, taking their son Henry with her. Charlie just got word that his play is opening on Broadway, but instead spends his time flying back and forth across the country to spend time with his son. On one trip, he gets served divorce papers, throwing a wrench in their plan to do things cordially.

Nicole's powerhouse lawyer Nora (played by Laura Dern) is a no-nonsense gal, determined to get full custody for her client. Charlie's mild-mannered but experienced lawyer (played by the lovely Alan Alda) explains how complicated things will be for them if Charlie chooses to maintain a residence and work in NYC. Charlie's ego gets the best of him, but we question Nicole's motives and whether she has been intentionally vindictive. Blink and you'll miss a few great scenes with the inimitable Ray Liotta.

Oddly choppy dialogue or too-long monologues combined with obvious and in-your-face symbolism was a real turn off for me. But I do think the director did a good job with making you simultaneously sympathize with and despise both of these characters. I've enjoyed these two actors in several other films, but this just didn't click for me. I also think there are better films to come this season, so you might hold off on screening this one.

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