Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story is a poignant tale of a couple’s lost love eventually leading to a painful divorce. Charile Barber (Adman Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) are a couple at loggerheads in their marriage. Charlie is a successful theater director and Nicole has given up her mainstream acting career in Los Angeles to join Charlie’s theater company in New York as his lead theater actress. A life Nicole once wanted with Charlie now seems monotonous and unfulfilling. The couple sees a mediator who asks them to write down what they like about each other. Charlie reads out his letter but Nicole is hesitant to do so and walks out of the mediation.
At first there seems nothing wrong with this couple. But what is truly brewing is the life-crisis faced by Nicole. She feels by marriage she has lost her individuality. Her career and dreams have taken a backseat and are secondary to Charlie’s dream and his life choices. Their marriage is moving forward as per Charlie’s plans and his ambitions and Nicole’s desires are long forgotten.
Nicole temporarily moves to her mother’s house in West Hollywood with their son Henry after she is offered a role in a television pilot. There is meets Nora (Laura Dern) a matrimonial lawyer who comforts Nicole. In essence it was after meeting Nora that Nicole gathers courage and determination to split from Adam and put her career first. Nicole also reveals that she is troubled by Charlie’s affair with the stage manager of the theater company. With Nora’s support Nicole claims her long lost self again by deciding to be on her own and pursue her dreams.
Nicole serves divorce papers to Charlie when he flies to Los Angeles to tell her the news of his McArthur Fellowship Grant. Charlie is baffled and heartbroken. He decides to fight back for his son Henry’s custody. He looks for a lawyer in New York but he is advised that since their marriage took place in Los Angeles and his wife and child live in Los Angeles, they are a Los Angeles based couple and must hire a lawyer in LA.
Charlie is a well meaning but rigid person. We see his rigidity and fixation when he insists that Henry live in New York with him and he fails to see any reason why Henry should live in LA despite Henry telling him that he loves his friends and cousins in LA. Adam runs from pillar to post to hire a lawyer in LA after it turns out that Nicole has consulted practically every lawyer in town thereby making them unable to represent him. Charlie is caught off guarded by circumstance and one cannot help but feel sorry for him. He ends up hiring Bert Spitz a sensible family lawyer.
Charlie rents an apartment in LA to be closer to Henry and strengthen his custody case. But the struggle of managing his theater company in New York while keeping up with his scheduled visits with Henry in Los Angeles takes a toll on him. Charlie fires Bert who advises him to drop his New York plea instead he hires Jay. Jay and Nora fight aggressively in court and attempt to present one another in bad light. Things get ugly as both Nicole and Charlie unveil petty details about one another.
The last blow for Charlie is his failed meeting with the Elevator. An Elevator spends a night with Charlie and Henry to access their living situation where Charlie accidentally cuts himself. Eventually after the long and bitter fight, the couple decides to relax their demands and agree on mutual divorce with 55-45% custody in favor of Nicole.
A year later we see that Charlie has had a successful run at the Broadway with his theater company and Nicole is nominated for an Emmy Award for directing an episode of her show. She is living a new life with her Boyfriend. Charlie tells Nicole that he has taken up residency at UCLA and will be living in LA near Henry. Charlie finally did what Nicole had been begging him to do for years but a bit too late. It appears that Charlie has learned to become a little more flexible in life. Later, Charlie gets to read the letter Nicole had refused to read before the mediator and he gets emotional by all the wonderful things Nicole as to say for him. After the Halloween party Nicole lets Charlie spend an extra day with Henry. A marriage broke but a family stayed together and all is well with this family. Life can be hard sometimes but there is nothing one can do about it except to accept things and try to make the best out of it.
Who was wrong who was right?
This beauty of this drama is that it makes us feel bad for both Nicole and Charlie. During the divorce both of them blame one another but in essence no one is wrong. We get to see the reality of both their lives, no one is trying to hurt the other but they both get hurt, they both lose. This emotional tale is strong yet subtle in the reality it depicts. It captures the emotions perfectly and portrays the sadness and pain of a breaking marriage in the most realistic manner.
Why you should watch this movie?
IMDb Rating- 8/10
Rotten Tomatoes- 95%
92nd Academy Awards
WINNER Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in Supporting Role- Laura Dern
NOMINATED Oscar Motion Picture of the Year
NOMINATED Oscar Best Performance by an Actress in Leading Role
NOMINATED Oscar Best Performance by an Actor in Leading Role