“Marriage Story,” like “The Irishman,” is another film that got a limited theatrical release and then found its way to Netflix. Just like that film, it features a sublime cast and a story loaded with heartbreak and tragedy.
Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson star as Charlie and Nicole Barber, a married couple living in New York City. He’s a theatre director; she’s an actress. Together they live with their 8-year-old son Henry (Azhy Robertson).
At the beginning, Nicole is offered a role in a new TV show while Charlie’s latest play is about to go to Broadway. In the midst of this, Nicole serves Charlie divorce papers, believing that he neglects her and doesn’t support her ambitions.
The two decide to want to settle things amicably, but their lawyers want this to turn into a bloodbath. Laura Dern is Nicole’s attorney and Ray Liotta is Charlie’s.
When they’re alone to discuss their problems, Charlie and Nicole’s deep-seated secrets bubble up to the surface and the movie explodes with some heated arguments that are painfully authentic.
Writer/director Noah Baumbach is a master at crafting a dynamic at play on which we see both sides of the couple: We see their fears, insecurities, aspirations, as well as they’re desires to be the best parent they can be for their son.
Driver and Johansson deliver powerhouse work that feels palpable with well-articulated dialogue that creates many layers and some scenes leave us wondering how much more they can endure before they’re pushed right up to the edge.
Take the scene in which Nicole has to serve Charlie the papers. She has to have her sister (Merritt Wever) perform the task. When Charlie comes home from work, he notices the envelope, but we never know if he notices his name on it or if he knows what’s in it. If a scene like this can create suspense about his reaction and we still don’t know how he’ll actually react, it’s done its job.
“Marriage Story” is a fine example of a well-crafted story that depicts divorce in the only way it should be: Human.
Rated R for language throughout and sexual references.
Justin Hall is a syndicated movie critic in South Georgia.