This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Xtwelve’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Okay so I for sure didn’t give this the consideration it deserved the first time I saw it, the sign of a less mature filmgoer for sure but also one that now doesn’t just feel the strange, lyrical, pretty irreplicable way that Baumbach splits his pain here for the sake of making every viewer internalize these same sorts of unique, opaque emotions, but if I may, I now I at least feel some sort of way about how he crafts it.
I mean to an extent it’s not exactly a new revelation for myself or others for that matter that Baumbach’s 2010 run seems highly influenced by Woody Allen, in fact it seems no mistake or secret either given how the tendencies always emerges when he’s, Baumbach that is, at his most romantic about storytelling and cinema as a whole, and while I would argue that Frances Ha is still the closest to an Allen film of his from the principle of pure, Allenist aesthetic, not to mention parallel narrative choices, dipping at times into the territory of very obvious homaging to the Woody’s Manhattan specifically but really that whole 70s golden age of his work, Marriage Story is in equal measure the film that seems like it’s with which Baumbach finally got to the heart of what it means to adopt this style (one if not the reason it feels so different to me at least from anything he has even tried to make before, and no, I would say this is more of a veritable Allen impression not just because it symbolically pits LA and New York against each other to tear down in a way the former, though, honestly also seeing LA overrun with people talking about “dude... but the space” and converting to veganism in a revitalized white girl hippie era frankly would be something I would like to see Allen mock in a screwball sense at some point, you know if he has another even decent idea in him at this point) beyond just having your painfully indie cinematographer do a still to this day downright marvelous Gordon Willis impression, all in all though if Woody was coffee shop slow jazz at his best than Noah maybe even ups the ante here for a artistic style more of the sweeping concerto variety (if only because that opinion bubbles to the surface out of how much everything in the film just feels musically charged in some way, creatively a dam bursting through with the notes and rhythms, and words it seems he couldn’t wait to get out) and damned if it doesn’t deserve to be remembered as one.
I guess if I want to continue the Woody Allen comparison for another second this does more specifically feel like the fully realized, dramatically taut rather than comedically dismissive version of Husbands and Wives in the notably few areas for improvement left by that sort of a film, wherein though first similarly it feels like a good bit of the storytelling is of the distinctly provocateur variety, and yet if we want to talk music again whilst certain cinematically eclectic rave DJs alla Noe, Kornie, Von Trier, while the most trite examples, ask their audience to consider some controversial and at times deep material by just waving their dicks in the viewer’s face waiting for the beat to drop, in the end only really relegating the discussion to twitter tirades by prudes and never the intended target, here Baumbach in that very long-winded to say Husbands and Wives provocative vein only if to say very knee-jerk reactionary style subtly builds up a strong emotion connection to his leads and then hits the viewer with a unique emotionally torn feeling through putting arguably just as debatable opinions about gender roles, married life, etc, out there moreover than forcing the audience because of how they already think they care about this story to dissect how they feel about it in real time.
I mean, yes, leading up to the rightfully popular question as to whose side the film really takes, or whose do you, etc, something that can only take on so many varied shades because of the blatantly emotional poking and prodding, but maybe more interesting if we are talking about patterns I would say to answer, if all I can, such a question it feels like Marriage Story is very intentionally cultivated to follow in the collective sense those initial cold open sequences from both Nicole and Charlie, Nicole sets the tone first and then Charlie, Baumbach tells Nicole’s side of the story as best as he can but then inevitably switches over to Charlie’s perspective of which, well, that is, if we are meant to read this all as even the slightest bit autobiographical, it seems, let’s just say, Baumbach has a much more dynamic and sympathetic understanding of in the face of the more naked facts like the affair that tells us we should probably side with Nicole no question (and once again that still is just my experience with it all and by no means a blanket statement, nor would I want it to be able to be in all honesty).
And there really is something very magical about the performances here as well, well just everything here, case in point the first time I watched the film I kind of felt like Charlie in plain definitions “lost” obviously, he paid the bigger price, etc, but this time I couldn’t help but feel like Nicole was the one who despite the time with Henry and winning the ruling of being an “LA family”, signaled by some inexplicable shift in the Johansson at around the third act to being very stoic and melancholic, lost more emotionally, not to mention that there seems to be a noticeable drop-off when she is meant to act on screen as an actress in-world, maybe I am reading into this too much but during that song and dance number with her family, while not the best example she was a shell of the actress we saw at the beginning even in, not despite the relaxed context, an ominous final note for sure.
Or maybe not, maybe that is also my pity for Charlie coming out too, as it seems might be more accurate, like a sort of in dream, egotistical Mulholland Drive (man, didn’t expect that to be a comparison made here I’ll tell you) moment from Baumbach where in a fit of his own self-soothing he makes the film counterpart wife seem dissatisfied despite herself in this new arrangement, spitefully failing at her career, and also that she, in her own words still loves him and such, but also something that just makes you feel bad for Nicole all over again. I mean, regardless the point is I will probably not agree with any of what I just said on a third watch, in essence making a rare but bitingly accurate cinematic experience you don’t nearly see enough where changing the lens or the focal length you are willing to approach this subject from really does at the same time change the entire way it looks in perspective.
So yeah, safe to say 2/2 on crying my eyes out at the ending that sort of but not really reconciles it all, something from observing my friends and relatives with divorces as a kid seems all too real. Also, no doubt the best thing Randy Newman will ever produce is the score to that last scene, but to an extent the whole rest of the film as well. In all fairness, this is just going to sound like the kind of thing I usually say to end a review all dramatic and shit, but Marriage Story really is this extremely stimulating, healthy, yet altogether healing brand of emotional torture that I honestly couldn’t be luckier to experience at a phase so impressionable in my own development as a filmmaker. It’s a masterpiece, I can’t rate it 5, or at least just yet I think, but this is a masterpiece.