Marriage Story (2019) Review

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Keeping up my kick of back to back Adam Driver movies, I found my way to the newest Netflix release and buzzing awards contender Marriage Story. For the last several months I have heard nothing but great things about this movie for those who have been lucky enough to have a chance to see it. They have praised the story and the acting from both Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson who play two parents of a son that are in the middle of a divorce. Being touted as one of the best films of the year with powerhouse performances by the two, my expectations were high and hoping not to be let down.

 On the surface you may look at this movie and assume that it’s that type of movie where they are going through a divorce, but somehow find their way back to each other at the end. I wasn’t so sure about that, but my girlfriend on the other hand was expecting it to be that kind of story. What struck me first was very much the performances. Adam Driver is probably best known for playing Kylo Ren in the new Star Wars trilogy, and with his most recent performance I’ve seen being The Report, I was pleasantly surprised with the human and heartfelt performance that he gave as a hurting father. The same goes for Johansson who I’ve seen more performances of than Driver, but she also gives a fantastic, emotional, and heartfelt performance as a hurting mother. What the director, Noah Baumbach, was able to do was that he made me feel that they were really feeling and expressing what they were going through. What I’m saying is that I have seen many movies where the actors act that scene out and you know what they’re going through and how they’re supposed to be feeling and they act it out, but Baumbach was able to get Johansson and Driver to actually feel and come off as if it was actually them living through this unfortunate life moment. I was really able to connect with the pain and the struggle that they were going through which says a lot for someone that hasn’t been through that kind of situation personally, I appreciate the grounded real performances he was able to get out of them and them being able to feel the story and emote that perfectly.

With the performances beings as real as it was, it would only work if the story and writing could hold up equally as well to keep me engaged and to believe that what they were saying was equal to that of what they were emoting. Baumbach not only directed this film, but he also wrote it and he simply knocks it out of the park, without spoiling the end in case you think the ending will be a certain way or not, I will say that this is not just a movie about a divorce issue, but an actual real world human situation between two flawed parents. It’s written in such a way that usually one of the two parents comes off as the reason for things not working or the reason for everything being screwed up and while the blame could from a certain point of view be pinned on one of them, somebody else may feel that they blame could be on the other parent. What this shows is that unlike many other movies that have done this kind of story, it’s not always black and white, there’s a lot of grey and with both parents being flawed and having their own issues on top of being very real world human characters, you could see both arguments in such a way that you really feel bad for both. All of this put together with the acting, directing, and everything else makes a fantastic movie about love and pain.

Watching the trailers, this movie was always shown as a story about our two leads and the relationship or breakdown of that relationship to a point, but there were a few surprises. I couldn’t remember while watching the movie if Laura Dern, or Ray Liotta were ever in the trailers so I was pleasantly surprised to see their small roles. Liotta’s role was much smaller than Dern’s, both of which played lawyers, but it was a welcome sight to see them both in there either way. I tend to believe that anything with Laura Dern is instantly elevated because of how perfect she is in just about any role. Unfortunately for her this may be one of those few movies that wasn’t effected by her performance because the movie as a whole was already so damn good and the lead performances overshadowed anyone else.

Overall I have to say that Netflix in the last few weeks has released two films, this one and The Irishman that have both been highly praised and both have a very great chance of being up for the biggest of awards this year. I believe Marriage Story is the better of the two and if I had to pick one I would vote this one in along with a nomination for writing, directing, and acting for both of the leads. This is easily one of my favorite movies of the year and I can’t recommend this movie enough. Obviously if you’re not much of a drama fan or if you’re going through your own personal issues similar to this than it may not be for you, but seriously I would recommend this to anyone and is readily available on Netflix right now.

Grade: A

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