Friday Film Review--"Marriage Story"
For this week’s Friday Film Review, Linda Jager went streaming, and looked back at a film, directed by a Sundance alumni, which was an Oscar contender earlier this year.
Trying to review a film amid the Coronavirus outbreak is a challenge. With theaters closed to patrons, many film fans - like myself - have had to find alternatives to the big screen. Thankful, streaming video via Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime have added a great selection of films which gives us a chance to catch up on films we may have missed seeing in the theater. And these also provide a nice break from binge watching "Tiger King,"
I missed catching "Marriage Story" when screened in theaters this winter. I’m not sure how it flew under my radar. It has all the elements that draw me to a film – notably, a great cast and a compelling story – but the film had a short theatrical run and was released on Netflix in December.
Then came awards season and "Marriage Story" was showered with nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress and more. Alas, months later I still didn’t have time to watch it, but with Netflix at the ready during our Stay at Home public health order, I finally sat down and watched it from the comfort of my own couch.
"Marriage Story" is a drama about the ending of a marriage and the resulting emotional ripple effect. The film was written, directed and produced by Noah Baumbach, who also wrote and directed the critically acclaimed drama "The Squid and the Whale" – a similar film about the demise of a marriage that screened at Sundance in 2005.
Set in Brooklyn and L.A., "Marriage Story" stars Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, who play Nicole and Charlie. Nicole was a well-known teen film actress who left L.A. behind after meeting Charlie, a young and aspiring playwright. The couple married, had a son, settled down in Brooklyn, and started an acting company where Nicole headlined Charlie’s off-Broadway plays.
The film opens with scenes from what appears to be an idyllic life, which comes to an abrupt halt when we find Nicole and Charlie in an intense mediation session.
Nicole leaves Brooklyn to return to her childhood home in L.A. with the couple’s 8-year-old son Henry. There we meet Nicole’s nosy mom Sandra (played by Julie Hagerty), herself a former actress now widowed by Nicole’s dad, and Nicole’s sister Cassie (played by Merritt Wever) – also an actress. Nicole has been tapped to star in a TV pilot. The show’s producer introduces Nicole to Nora Fanshaw – one of L.A.’s most notorious divorce lawyers played in an Oscar winning performance by Laura Dern.
Meanwhile back in New York, Charlie’s current production is about to make it’s Broadway debut, and he’s now frantically flying coast to coast in an attempt to work things out with Nicole and spend time with Henry.
Despite the couple agreeing to keep the divorce amicable, Charlie is now tasked with finding a lawyer in L.A. after Nicole serves him with divorce papers. He finds two: Jay (played by Ray Liotta), a ruthless $900/hour attorney that’s ready to go toe-to-toe with Nora, and the much more laid back entertainment turned divorce lawyer Bert Spitz (played by Alan Alda).
The ensemble cast – led by the strong performances of Johansson, Driver, Dern and Alda – bring to life the raw and painful emotions that mark the end of a marriage.
"Marriage Story" runs a lengthy 136 minutes, and is rated R (for language and sexual references). It’s worth adding to your Netflix queue as you stay at home for a night at the movies.
This is Linda Jager with the KPCW Friday Film Review.