• by Wes Singleton

Marriage Story - A

Rated R, 137 minute

Noah Baumbach's searing, superbly acted "Marriage Story" expertly deals with the pain of divorce and broken relationships. The director and writer of such family drama's as "The Squid and the Whale" and "While We Were Young" again crafts one of the year's most memorable, unforgettable dramas.


Charlie, a New York City stage director (Adam Driver) and his actor wife Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) struggle through a gruelling, coast-to-coast divorce that pushes them to their personal and creative extremes. At first, they attempt to resolve their differences through a mediator, but the landscape of their situation shifts when Nicole relocates to Los Angeles and hires a flashy, high-priced divorce attorney (Oscar-nominee Laura Dern).

Baumbach's bittersweet, pitch-perfect "Marriage Story" is really a tragedy, especially if you've been through a divorce first-hand. As the couple whose relationship and marriage is unraveling, Oscar-nominated Driver (of "BlackKklansman" and the new "Star Wars" films) and "Avengers" Johansson give career-best performances that should give them plenty of accolades this upcoming awards season. "Story" is filled with many heart-wrenching moments that perfectly display how wrenching divorce can be on families.

Baumbach also assembled a stellar supporting cast that give memorable performances as well, led by Laura Dern as Nicole's flashy attorney; Dern steals scenes from the moment she walks on screen in jeans and red stiletto heels, and is perfect at feigning sincerity. As Charlie's attorney's, there's a scene-chewing Alan Alda and then an over-the-top Ray Liotta. Liotta and Dern go after it in one of the most entertaining scenes of the film, as they trade many insults toward each other's client. Watch for Julie Hagerty, Merrit Weaver, and Wallace Shawn in a few small, but key parts as family and colleagues.

Shortly after the Dern-Liotta duel comes another, this a showdown between the troubled parents in private, and by far it's one of the most anguishing, wrenching scenes I've seen at the movies this year; if this scene alone doesn't net both Driver and Johansson Oscar-nominations, it is a crime. "Marriage Story" tries to end on an upbeat note, but the final scene with Driver and his son will get to you (it did me).

"Marriage Story" is in limited release and will also be streaming on Netflix. Don't miss it, it's one of the best movies of the year.


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