Marriage Story

Marriage Story ★★★

"We promised to listen."

Ever since The Squid and the Whale, I've seen every Noah Baumbach film in a theater. I've heard him speak thrice: at the DGA, when Margot at the Wedding showed at AFI Fest, and while he was promoting The Meyerwitz Stories (at LACMA).

"That's all I had. Thanks for indulging me."

I hated the staginess in the opening. Since Charlie (Adam Driver), is supposed to be a theater director, I suppose it should have worked. His chosen metier reminded me of the writers of (500) Days of Summer who were like, Huh, let's thinly veil the fact that we're writers and come up with another profession for Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character. Hmm, I know! We'll make him an architect!!. I liked the notes of positivity that Charlie and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) wrote about each other. I also liked the shot of the food that was stuck in Nicole's teeth. I became aware of Randy Newman's poignant score when Charlie was looking at family photos in the hallway; otherwise it was not obtrusive. Sandra (Julie Hagerty), Nicole's mother is great: she has a dead, gay husband and she sees her daughter's exes (don't we all know someone who keeps in contact with their children's exes much to the chagrin of those children?). I feel that Julie Hagerty is never cast often enough, so it was a great delight to see her in this movie. It might be controversial of me to say this, but I enjoyed her performance more than any of the other ones in this film. Laura Dern can also do no wrong. However, the falsity of her lawyer character, Nora Fanshaw, really put me off; although, I assume that was the intention.

"Wasn't it Tom Petty who said, 'The waiting is the hardest part'?"

Charlie calls his son "honey" a lot. It made me wonder two things:
1) Is Adam Driver ever around children at all? This felt weird.
2) Does Noah Baumbach call his son that? If so: okay, if not: it didn't really work for me.

"Everything's like everything in a relationship."

As for Nicole, the character seems to be mostly based on Noah Baumbach's ex, Jennifer Jason Leigh. She directed the film Anniversary Party in 2001 and Nicole expresses a desire to direct theater in the film. Baumbach's mother of his second child, Greta Gerwig, has directed two features now, so I wondered if the character took a little bit of inspiration from her as well. Nicole, through Noah Baumbach that is, uses the subjunctive properly. I complain when characters misuse it, so I might as well applaud the actors/writers when they use it correctly. Also, Nicole's high-wasted pants were a big "NO" for me, but I will say "YES" to her cozy, stylish sweaters.

"It was nice... for awhile."

Charlie and Nicole are so amicable to each other for a lot of the film, but it gradually builds up to one particular fight scene. That one reminded me a lot of Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslet's fights in Revolutionary Road; it felt pretty showy. While disturbing, it was hard to feel the complete emotion as Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson seemed to be standing on their marks. Their words and tone were on fight mode, but their body movements didn't match up.

“She was addicted to Tums for awhile.”

I am a very huge Noah Baumbach fan, so perhaps my expectations for this were far too high. I saw some very encouraging reviews and naturally assumed that this film could be another masterpiece from him. However, while I liked Squid's rawness and honesty, Marriage Story came across as whiny and "real" - not in a good way, but in a very dull way. Compound it with the fact that it was overly long, and I really didn't enjoy it as much as I had hoped. Usually, I'm bowled over by Baumbach's dialogue. But strangely, and sadly, I was more fond of some quotes from Mistress America.

"We have to win this."

Baumbach, thank you for trying to tell your story. And to the audiences that loved this film, I am glad for you. However, to me it felt overhyped and left me wanting a lot more.


Vegan alert:
-Manuka honey in tea
-Henry drops a burger
-BLTs and Chinese chicken salad are ordered at Manny's
-Charlie says he doesn't care about animals

"I fell in love with him two seconds after I first saw him."

Vegan points:
-Henry and a girl play with a cat
-Nora Fanshaw orders a kale salad from Manny's
-Charlie chops carrots and gives his son apple slices
-Almond milk

Vegetarian points:
Nicole purportedly becomes a vegetarian.

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