Ax on ‘Flix

In this week’s Netflix pick, Axel reviews “Marriage Story”

By Axel Marcenaro
On March 6, 2020

Axel Marcenaro, editor-in-chief


“Marriage Story,” written and directed by Noah Baumbach, is the 2019 drama about a marriage falling apart. Adam Driver plays Charlie, the husband and theater director, while Scarlett Johansson plays Nicole, the actress and wife. The two maintain a life in New York with their son, but when Ni­cole gets a job in Los Angeles and decides to stay there, the ensuing divorce becomes messy. The film follows each spouse navigating the unfamiliar and hostile waters of loneliness, divorce law and their true feelings.

To begin, this movie is so re­alistically portrayed that it is like­ly to bring back some bad memories for anyone who’s been in a failed relationship. Johansson does a fantastic job as Nicole and, regardless of a few things Nicole does that make Charlie’s life unnecessarily dif­ficult, she keeps the audience equally on her side. She’s as likeable as she is complex. While we see her initiating the divorce and complicat­ing things with her move to L.A. and involvement of greedy lawyers, we also see her blossom into someone she has always been forced to repress. Johansson reminds us that Nicole is a person with her own wants, needs and aspirations, not just someone’s wife.

Driver’s character is less dynamic, but his performance isn’t any less impressive. As he navigates through complicated family law and the financial pressures placed on husbands during divorces, we really grow to feel for this guy who is trying his best as a dad. Similar to Johansson, he keeps us equally involved with his side of the story, even as further details regarding his misdoings are revealed.

The entire film rests solely on the two actors’ relationship on screen, and together they work seamlessly. Their back-and-forth ban­ter and fights always feel naturally unnatural and perfectly imperfect, which is an appropriate dynamic as the two awkwardly attempt to exit their life as one, but have no way of forgetting the familiarity of a per­son whom they’ve known for so long. There is one scene, however, where I feel the two became unnaturally rigid in a way unintended by the director. When the couple attempts to solve divorce issues at Charlie’s new L.A. home, their argument grows naturally but ultimate­ly ends feeling over-rehearsed. This creates an anticlimactic feeling to what is supposed to be a climactic and very human point in the story.

While the film does rely mostly on Driver and Johansson’s per­formances, it wasn’t by any means slacking in the other departments. The film’s look is composed properly to be both pretty and bleak at the same time. The music is, at two specific moments, perfectly inter­twined into the narrative, almost like a musical without the theatrics. There are jokes that really land amidst the hazy atmosphere, and words that break your heart after you thought that the movie couldn’t do that any more than it already had.

Overall, this is a great film, but only if you’re tired of all the rom-coms and happily-ever-afters. It really strikes the core of ill-fated relationships and serves as a warning story if nothing else. Just be care­ful who you watch it with and be sure to bring a tissue or two.

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