I saw a handful of films at TIFF 2019. Some made me laugh, others made me cry. Marriage Story did both to an extent that I’ve never seen before. There are scenes that had my entire theatre laughing so hard that we couldn’t hear the next lines. Other parts left no dry eye in the house, which was confirmed when I walked out of the theatre at the end of this 136-minute film to see everyone wiping their eyes. Marriage Story is a film that sits with you and forces you to feel a variety of emotions. Noah Baumbach has expertly directed this visual masterpiece and leads Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson give an otherwise heartbreaking movie some optimistic charm.
A Marriage Story About Divorce
Netflix released two teaser trailers before TIFF for Marriage Story. The first, “What I Love About Nicole” shows Johansson’s Nicole being a mother, an actress, and a wife while Driver’s Charlie tells us all of the things he loves about her. It’s far more than just skin deep and shows a genuine connection between partners. The second teaser, “What I Love About Charlie” does the same, but flipped. In parallel to my theatre-going experience at TIFF, Charlie and his son are shown walking out of a cinema, agreeing that they each cried four times throughout the film. I’m sure the same could be said for my entire audience.
Image via Netflix
Marriage Story begins in a similar way to the teasers. We start this movie truly believing in Charlie and Nicole as lovers. There is a level of investment for viewers, where we want to root for them. But filmmakers often love to rip our hopes and dreams away. We desire for Charlie and Nicole to stay together in a happy family with their son. This gets squashed as we soon learn that they’re in the first stages of separation. Their relationship becomes even trickier when it’s revealed Nicole would like to move from New York to LA, despite Charlie’s protests. This isn’t a story about marriage – it’s a story about divorce, custody, and how somebody can have everything that they thought they knew in life change in an instant.
Noah Baumbach Delivers at TIFF with Marriage Story
Baumbach wrote, co-produced, and directed this film. His past work provides a variety of stories and proves his skills as a director. The Squid and the Whale was an early shot at exploring the intricacies of family dynamics. Frances Ha showed a desire to explore unique creative processes, with an entirely black-and-white film. But nothing compares to Marriage Story. There is so much love that has gone into this film, and it is apparent with each scene. His decision to showcase equal parts of Charlie and Nicole makes sure that we know the divorce is not the fault of either of them. There is no villain, nobody that deserves custody or happiness more. It’s just two people who have grown up in the same physical space while pulling further and further apart until their time together expired.
Awards-Worthy Performances in Marriage Story
Actors who are already tied to huge roles can often be distracting. Scarlett Johansson played a lead role in Marvel films for a decade. Adam Driver played the villain in one of the most anticipated movies ever. Both of their respected franchises have films that have grossed over $2 billion dollars, so they certainly aren’t unrecognizable. But despite their well-established popularity, they fade into their roles so well that it’s easy to forget that they haven’t been married for 10 years. There is real chemistry when they share the screen, yet you get a sense of genuine hatred in scenes where they’re in disagreement.
The Funniest Movie at TIFF About Heartbreak
I cannot remember a movie from the past year that has made me laugh harder than Marriage Story. And I’m not alone. There is such natural comedy throughout the entire film that, when you aren’t crying, there’s a good chance you’re on the verge of breaking out into laughter. One scene in the first few minutes of the film has Charlie sleeping in bed with his son after a nightmare. And, like most kids’ beds, it’s pretty small. It’s great physical comedy but it also makes you laugh from experience, as so many parents have been in that position. This heartfelt but hilarious father/son moment reminds us early on that Baumbach wants you to laugh. After all, life can be pretty funny, even in the hardest of times.
Image via Netflix
Not just a hit at TIFF, Marriage Story is already gathering some Oscar-buzz, and for good reason. I expect to see it in every major category, with at least a few wins. Even Laura Dern’s role as a lawyer came with such a good speech about male-versus-female expectations in parenthood that I wouldn’t be surprised if she earned a Best Supporting Actress nomination. The film is distributed by Netflix, which may both help or hurt its chances of snagging big awards. This film feels made for watching on a big screen, surrounded by like-minded movie lovers. But I also look forward to rewatching it alone on my laptop, with some comfort food and solitude to sit and feel every emotion that Marriage Story forces on you. You’re going to want to watch this one, and you’re going to want to bring tissues.
Marriage Story will have a limited theatrical run beginning on November 6th, 2019. Netflix will release it for streaming shortly after, on December 6th, 2019. Will you be watching?
Featured image via Netflix.
Meghan Hale is a graduate student living right outside of Toronto, Canada. She has always been the go-to gal for talking about anything film related and has a frustratingly long list of movie trivia up her sleeve. She is currently working on her first screenplay, as well as a horror novel, with the goal of publishing it while Stephen King is still around to read it.