All marriages are a mystery to outsiders, they say, and even more so to the married people themselves. In 2013, writer-director Noah Baumbach got divorced from screen star Jennifer Jason Leigh, and, until Leigh presents us with her own fictionalised movie version of their breakup (and who knows if she hasn’t considered it, or is considering it), we won’t have anything approaching the complete creative picture. Until then, here is Baumbach’s superb Marriage Story, a glorious laugh-out-loud, cry-out-loud portrait of a relationship in its death throes.
This wonderfully sweet, sad and funny film simply delivers more moment-by-moment pleasure than anything else around. It would be reductive to call it autobiographical, but it is notable how scrupulously generous his movie is to the soon-to-be-ex-wife figure, played impeccably by Scarlett Johansson. It is adroitly balanced and emotionally calibrated, although there are incidental details about who is the first to lawyer up, and a 55/45% split in the child custody arrangement. I wonder what Leigh makes of these points.
Adam - Driver - Johansson - Charlie - Nicole
Adam Driver and Johansson play Charlie and Nicole. He is a brilliant director in the world of off-Broadway theatre, now becoming the toast of the town; she is his wife and star player – a one-time LA movie actor who moved to New York to be with her husband and lent crucial glamour to his fledgling stage company in the beginning. But (to her chagrin) she is becoming far less important to a husband who, despite his devastating and quite unaffected intelligence and charm, is indifferent to her needs and opinions. They have an eight-year-old son, Henry (Azhy Robertson). The offer of high-profile TV work in Los Angeles brings Nicole’s discontent to an awful crisis, even more painful because Charlie has a genuine, affectionate closeness to Nicole’s mother, Sandra – a wonderful performance by Julie Hagerty...
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