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  • Bruce Klein

Marriage Story: Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Marriage Story. At first, things were ideal, then they slowly fell apart. Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) was being suffocated by Charles (Adam Driver). The couple has memories of happy times and closeness. But Nicole doesn’t want to hold onto these memories and she wants to leave Charlie. What to do with their eight year-old Harry (Azhy Robertson) is problematic. She wants LA and he wants New York. Although the two of them are in show business, their relationship is no different than other couples.


Their show business world is not in their daily lives. It is just the work that they do; their careers. Careerists are not easy people to live with. They are absorbed in their own world which can make them selfish. They can love their spouse and children, but their career comes first.


At the beginning of their marriage, Charlie makes Nichole feel alive. So, she goes along with what he wants. When she goes to LA to act in a TV pilot, Charlie tells her to send her paycheck back for his theater company. That demand left her angry and resentful. Because of that incident and others, she pushes for a divorce. But where will Harry live and who gets what possessions? Both get pugnacious lawyers played by Laura Dern and Ray Leona. Nichole and Charlie end up battling in court and continue a fight over custody. Near the end of the movie, there is song and dance but Nicole and Charlie are shattered.


This intelligent story about a divorce is lively and truthful. The movie’s script is outstanding. It is so well written that the action rides along with it. It speaks to all of us. There is a universal quality about not only Nicole’s and Charlie’s relationship but their relationship to Harry and Nicole’s mother Sandra (Julie Hagerty). New York City and LA both become characters in this movie. The street sets-ups in both cities serve the story.


Nicole’s character ark is easy to follow but Charlie’s is not. Maybe that has to do with his “… disappearance into his own world,” as Nicole says. There are three dead ends in the story that seem to have no relevance. First, Halloween is a useless subtext in the story. It’s uncertain what connection it has to the plot. Second, Harry’s learning disability becomes obvious but it has no bearing on the plot. Third, Scarlett Johansson’s character mysteriously becomes asexual.


The writer/director (Noah Baumbach) is on a short list of today’s auteurs. The movie was a little over two hours but because of the strained emotions, it felt like three hours. From his own life experiences, Baumbach has deep insight into human emotion. He combines love and hate, tragedy and comedy. He sacrifices erotic exploration to emphasize comportment. Maybe that is why Nicole becomes asexual.


This is a great picture and although the movie is R-rated, mature children over 12 could learn from it. If you have a mature child, especially if you’re divorced from their father or mother, take them and discuss it over ice cream after the movie.