Sunday, December 8, 2019

Marriage Story

Movie Name: Marriage Story
Year of Release: 2019
Director: Noah Baumbach
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Merritt Wever, Ray Liotta, Julie Hagerty, Alan Alda, Wallace Shawn, Kyle Bornheimer, Matthew Maher, Mickey Sumner, Azhy Robertson, Mark O'Brien, Robert Smigel, Brooke Bloom, Martha Kelly, Roslyn Ruff
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7
View Trailer

Synopsis and Review:
Following the well received "The Meyerowitz Stories", on which director Noah Baumbach partnered with Netflix, his newest endeavor is a continuation of that alliance. The film has already received unanimous praise, across all the Film Festivals where it premiered (including Venice, Toronto, Telluride, among many others). The film follows the story of a couple, comprised of Natalie and Charlie, who live in New York and work in the theater. Natalie who started a well known acting career in California, moved to NY when she fell in love with Charlie, and since then had a child and has devoted herself solely to theater work (in Charlie's group). Charlie in the interim has become a well respected theater director, with bigger and bigger visibility. This mutually supportive couple finds themselves going through a separation, with an intent on divorce. Natalie is dropping from the theater scene in NY and is aiming to go to Los Angeles to shoot a pilot for a TV show. That's also where her mother (a former actress herself) and her sister, both live. While in LA, Natalie retains the services of Nora, a ruthless divorce attorney, precipitating a series of events that catch Charlie by surprise, sparking reactions and behaviors that none of them knew or expected from each other. 
"Marriage Story" is an analysis of the dissolution of a marriage, which gets convoluted due to the existence of a child, and the geographical distance that both parents are suddenly confronted with, when tackling the education and raising of that child. The film merges references from Robert Benton's "Kramer vs. Kramer" and even Wood Allen's "Husbands and Wives", but where the film finds its potent footing, comes towards the final act, when the central couple try to discuss the situation in which they find themselves in. In an attempt to find solutions that are not quite as draining to their financial stability, darker feelings and resentments to come to the surface, threatening whatever civility was left between them. It's a film that for some time, tries to give insight, depth, to both parties involved in this dramatic situation, eventually shifting the focus to the father figure, who in essence is the displaced one in the narrative (both literally and figuratively). If anything, this shift is also where the narrative loses some of its momentum, as if having figured Natalie's broadly conveyed motivations for the move and breakup, the film suddenly forgets that she exists, and largely focuses on Charlie's attempts to reconcile his life on both coasts. It's a film that is nonetheless incisive, brutal at times, and extremely well acted, featuring wonderful performances from Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Julie Hagerty, Alan Alda and Ray Liotta. The cinematography from Robbie Ryan is beautiful (though I can't escape having a sense of déjà vu the way California is captured by filmmakers from NY, again very reminiscent of how Woody Allen captured it in "Annie Hall" with Gordon Willis as a cinematographer, for instance). Worth watching.