“Marriage Story” (MA) ***
NOAH Baumbach has written and directed this fictive drama exemplifying what can happen in the US when a husband or a wife feels that it’s time to end the partnership.
Why do theatrical director Charlie (Adam Driver) and actress Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) decide that their marriage is over? The screenplay hurtles down a path defined not by the end of love but by a determination to follow the decision right to its end. In the middle of the dispute, little Henry (Azhy Robertson) adds a poignant dimension.
Divorce can be amicable or a minefield of dispute, recrimination, grief, discomfort, anger and sorrow, delivered in this case with an ongoing discomfort about the absence of causation’s details.
Is Baumbach simply listing the travails besetting the family? Is he telling a cautionary tale to warn filmgoers to think carefully before jumping over the precipice?
The film makes much of not only the essentially adversarial nature of divorce, but also of the parasitical contribution to the mix of legal advisers lured by breathtakingly-high hourly fees.
Driver’s performance is outstanding, manifesting Charlie’s conflicts where he is the more aggrieved participant. Johansson’s performance too is admirable, yet leaving us wondering why Nicole is determined to persist; a sense of predictability often comes close to the film’s surface, without actually coming to fruition. Alan Alda is effective as Charlie’s wise old legal counsel.
“Marriage Story” has brought Baumbach several nominations for peer-group awards.