‘A Marriage Story’: love story though divorce

ROMANCE. ‘A Marriage Story’ tells a love story though divorce.

ROMANCE. ‘A Marriage Story’ tells a love story though divorce.

   Life is not a movie; films portray love through scenes of grandiose gestures and dramatic exits. Through a rain poured sidewalk as symphonies play thundering instrumentals. A Marriage Story, comedically sounds like any other romantic comedy from the early 2000s about a young couple who falls in love; however, the film is quite the opposite.

   A Marriage Story is instead about the divorce of Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johanson); Both fighting for custody over their son Henry(Azhy Robertson) to determine whether he will live in New York where Nicole and Charlie currently live, or will move to Los Angeles where Nicole has found new work.

   The film opens with two monologues. Both focusing on the qualities that Nicole and Charlie love about each other. Each monologue is four minutes long giving the audience time to not only learn about Charlie and Nicole as characters, but to also see them as a couple. In a film that will surely focus on the worst aspects of both Charlie and Nicole through their divorce, it is nice to have a moment of levity to see why these people ever got together in the first place.

   Writer/ Director Noah Baumbach could have easily just focused on one specific character’s point of view in the relationship, having a clear person you should root for and against. Baumbach instead plays with the audience’s allegiance where in moments you can suddenly switch between Nicole and Charlie’s perspective, giving a very real element to the film showing how relationships are a two way street and that there is always the other side to the argument.
   Like hounds to a fox, if there is a divorce there are lawyers. To see Nicole and Charlie who through the runtime of the film have been very insistent on having their voice and opinions heard, to see them completely silent during the courtroom scene. As their lawyers (Laura Dern and Ray Liotta) argue with each other about letting Nicole and Charlie be able to do as they want, Nicole and Charlie are at the mercy of these lawyers almost unable to speak what is truly on their mind.

   Baumbach not only studied the experiences of real life couples going through divorces, but also referenced thriller/ crime films in their formats of having small details towards the beginning of the film being used later to have greater meaning. He applied this to how Nicole and Charlie’s individual mistakes and pitfalls that are completely understandable in everyday life, are used as daggers and swords for their lawyers to poke through each other’s credibility as a parent.

   If the courtroom scene before had Nicole and Charlie be silent, the following scene is anything but. When Nicole tries to work things out with Charlie after the tense situation in the courtroom, the evening slowly builds in tension and anger until it finally explodes into a fiery argument. We as the audience have been able to see Charlie and Nicole’s argument individually until this very moment when these opinions clash to create one of the most memorable scenes in the film. At this point the argument between them is no longer about Henry or whether they live in Los Angeles or New York, but to instead inflict the most damage they can by calling each other selfish, diminishing the value of their work, comparing each other to parents they never wished to be, knowing that all of these topics pushes other to the brink of madness.

   Despite its heavy subject matter and dramatic scenes, A Marriage Story is also a very comedic movie. It’s hard not to laugh at the absurdity of the legal divorce process. With meetings discussing the very nature of Nicole and Charlie’s future suddenly interrupted by the proposal of lunch, it is hard not to have a smile creep on your face.

   As Nicole and Charlie’s marriage comes to a close, you wonder how a story that feels so real could ever have a nice hollywood like ending, the truth is it doesn’t. As their new lives begin, Charlie sees Henry read the opening monologue about what she loves about him. A reminder of what was and how things will never truly go back to the way they were. There is solace to know that while they aren’t together anymore, Nicole and Charlie still love each other even if it wasn’t the same as before.