Now streaming on Netflix and playing in pretty limited theaters is Marriage Story, a comedy-drama that’s written and directed by Noah Baumbach. Having received wide critical acclaim up to this point, it tells the story of a married couple, played by Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson, going through a coast-to-coast divorce. Added to this long-distance difficulty is the negotiating of time each one spends with their young son, Henry, played by Azhy Robertson.
Watch It: If you want to absorb a well-written, well-acted divorce dramedy that’s compassionate throughout, gripping, humorous, and poignant.
Skip It: Really, there’s no reason to skip this film other than the film genre not at all being of interest. There are no guns, no ghosts, and no goblins.
Marriage Story I will say up front is the best film of the year, and perhaps the best dramedy I’ve seen to date. While in the past I’ve mentioned how filmmakers seem challenged to seamlessly blend comedy and drama together, Baumbach took up this challenge and passed with flying colors. The film is both moving and humorous, and yet the screenplay works beautifully to not jolt us from one emotion to another like too many films have from one scene to the next.
This is what makes the script so fantastic. That and one of the main tenets for a great script being ample research, in this case coming from at least the memory of the director’s life. Baumbach has both been through his own divorce, as well as experiencing the divorce of his own parents. Though additional research and imagination undoubtedly was done, his own memory surely fuels the script with realism and a level of sympathy that a viewer may never have experienced before with a film.
To make the job easier for Baumbach, he had two of the finest young actors living today to carry an already believable and moving script. Adam Driver, playing husband Charlie Barber, and Scarlett Johansson, playing wife Nicole Barber are matched so well together and give performances that are no less skillful than their opposite. One of the scenes is one in which I can easily imagine on the big screen at the Oscars, when we see a brief clip of each nominated actor performing, before it’s announced who has won.
It’s the supporting cast, however, that could have deterred the film from being outstanding. Fortunately, veteran actors Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta, and Julie Hagerty respectively fill each of their roles perfectly, rounding out a superb cast for a well-rounded story. Additionally, young child actor Azhy Robertson has been guided by Baumbach to fill a child’s personality well that’s akin, presumably, to Robertson’s own personality, making for a much-believed portrayal.
With Marriage Story, I’m reminded of how well I received another masterpiece last year on Netflix, Roma. This year, however, two knockouts are streaming on the leading service: The Irishman and Marriage Story. With still many well-received films left for release this year, these two films will still be up against some worthy competition. Thus far, however, Marriage Story stands as the best film of the year.
Zimm Score: 10/10