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“Divorce,” my grandmother told me, “is unnatural. It’s like erasing history.” My grandmother witnessed this erasure firsthand—two of her five children are divorced.
Our society has tried to make divorce easier and more comfortable, with legal changes like shortening trial separation periods or creating no-fault divorce. Some have even tried to soften the blow by rebranding divorce as “conscious uncoupling.” But ending one’s marriage will never be easy or simple. Even if you feel completely justified in your reasons, and years later you look back on your divorce as a great decision, there’s still an unavoidable somberness to it. And even if you have no religious framework for understanding marriage as a covenant, divorce will always mark a conclusive end to an era, and that is no small thing. It’s something to lament. That’s the thesis of Noah Baumbach’s new film, Marriage Story (out now on Netflix).
Marriage - Story - Pinnacle - Noah - Baumbach
Marriage Story is arguably the pinnacle of Noah Baumbach’s filmmaking career. Baumbach—a New York auteur known for making introspective films about verbose, educated urban individuals—brings a season-of-life pathos to each of his projects. His first feature film, Kicking and Screaming (1995), identified the cultural significance of postgraduate Gen-X cynicism in the face of vocational discontent and the growing pains of becoming an adult (themes revisited in 2012’s Frances Ha). The Squid and the Whale (2005) was Baumbach’s looking back at the influence of his parents’ divorce on his own childhood. With Marriage Story, Baumbach reflects on his marriage to, and subsequent divorce from, actress Jennifer Jason Leigh. With a personal and tender touch, Baumbach deftly directs the cast to portray the heartbreak and emotional violence of divorce—something he, his parents, and his friends have all experienced.
From start to finish, the film’s stance toward divorce is one of ambivalence and regret. The drama of Marriage...
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