Marriage Story (2019)

Directed by Noah Baumbach

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Marriage Story begins and ends with a poetic little encapsulation of a character’s day to day quirks, the things that don’t always make it into movies because they don’t advance the plot or add conscious information to the story.  In this case the film adds an instant shot of humanity to a story that spends the rest of its time in an institution that dehumanizes its characters.  It’s an early reminder that these are real people, soon to be chewed up and spit out of a game-ified system that, like capitalism, requires winners and losers.

The film shows how easy it is to fall into such a destructive course of action after things have grown turbulent.  It’s a divorce story where the separation has already begun by the opening image and where there will be no last minute saving grace that keeps the couple together.  They’re getting divorced, and they will stay divorced.

It’s a rather gut wrenching story because the conflict feels so human, and there is no one to be mad at.  Charlie and Nicole (Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson) see things a bit differently, and it’s not until very nearly the end of the film that he catches up and realizes what has been eating away at her for many years.

They are flawed, idealistic, vulnerable people who grow incredibly throughout the film.  That they are splitting up makes sense, just as it made sense how they ended up together in the first place.  This is unlike so many movies in which a couple’s union or split is single-minded and unflinching.  They are destined to be together or to be apart, constant entities succumbing to a strange kind of fate.

So in Marriage Story it’s both exciting and unnerving to watch them evolve and, in some cases, devolve.  It’s a reminder that not everything lasts, actually that very little lasts, and after watching the film you may think it a miracle that anything ever does last, even for just a short amount of time.

In lieu of writing any more on the topic I might as well just link to this:

And so the film, after a great deal of discomforting arguing and character defamation, returns to the moment at the beginning of the film, wherein each character wrote a brief essay describing what it is they love, appreciate and admire about the other.

For the audience, who has seen these characters act at the behest of lawyers that seek to demean the other, it’s a bit of a shock, just being reminded that these characters are people outside of this strange little arena.  That they could see each other fully as well as see themselves fully is a tiny miracle.  Even after all that, they remain.

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