Marriage Story. Review (Mild Spoilers.)

From the marketing material I’ve seen the films of Noah Baumbach have never particularly appealed to me. That said when I heard about the buzz for Marriage Story coming out of various festivals and ranking high on year-end lists I wanted to see it even if the prospect of Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver as divorcing parents doesn’t sound like the most compelling thing in the world. My local independent cinema has started getting Netflix films before they are released to streaming so I took the opportunity to take in in a screening with high expectations. Is it as good as critics and audience have said.
Honestly yes and no. Don’t get me wrong this is a superb film. Terrifically written,superbly performed and deeply moving in places it’s an easy recommendation for pretty much anyone who has an interest in seeing it. Both central performances are outstanding but Scarlett Johansson gives easily my favourite performance of the year. There is an extended sequence involving her giving a monologue telling Laura Dern who plays her divorce attorney about how the relationship evolved over time and it’s honestly one of the great cinematic moments of the 2010s. It’s also great to see Alan Alda in pretty much anything and there’s nothing to dissuade that here.In terms of the drama on screen for the majority of its run time it’s fiendishly compelling.
I also really admired how the film wasn’t necessarily about the central divorce but was more concerned with how the clash in styles of the two parents effected both their relationship and how they treated their son. It reminded me of my own parents. You have the hard working mother who has put in the time i’m too really develop the relationship with her son and the son will always gravitate towards her as a result. The father tries his best to engage his son in whatever way he can but is so focused on his own professional life (in this case Adam Driver is a theatre director) that his son gets left behind or has to fit in in with the fathers schedule. All of this is executed in a way that’s very effective and emotionally engaging.
All that being said I do think that a few minor problems that prevent me from labelling it a masterpiece as many others have. At 135 minutes I think the film is a little bit too long and could do with losing 15 to 20 minutes. To explain which 15 minutes i’d cut-out would involve big spoilers. Impeccably acted as the one scene where the two parents have a ferocious argument is (no doubt it’s a strong contender for the award reels of both actors) I felt that it was also symptomatic of what this film might have been if it had taken a more conventional approach. Thankfully Baumbnach never seemed interested in this angle.
Despite the minor problems mentioned in the last paragraph this was mostly as fantastic as reported. The subject matter might not seem like a fun Friday night’s viewing (and it isn’t) but for fans of emotionally compelling drama this is a must.

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