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‘Marriage Story’


“Marriage Story,” (2019) is full of pain, angst, regrets and anguish, but it’s also full of moments that reach into the heart and make you say, “Yes!”

The film starts with lists the two main characters have made enumerating the good things about one another, thus we start into the film understanding that these are good human beings who know what marriage is all about.

“Marriage Story” centers around Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) who are getting a divorce. It follows the process of a woman who is finding herself and a man who doesn’t understand what is happening or how they reached the stage of apartness. A beloved child, Henry (Azhy Robertson), is in the middle of it all.

This film is well made, earning six Oscar nominations and one win for Laura Dern, who played Nicole’s divorce attorney. One could almost be fooled into thinking it is realistic. The couple at first agree to an amicable no-attorney divorce, then things get complicated when Nicole moves from their New York home to Las Angeles, and it becomes a cross-country ordeal.

Problems escalate when Nicole finds power attorney Nora Fanshaw, played by Dern. Her introduction into the plotline forces Charlie to fight back, first choosing the kind, reasonable attorney Bert Spitz (Alan Alda), then resorting to an expensive shark type, Jay Marotta (Ray Liotta).

I chose to watch this Netflix Production that came out last year in the theaters (still available on Netflix), because I’m a sucker for the Academy Awards and because I have had a fascination for the way Driver functions. I first saw him in the HBO series, “Girls.” His tall, awkward, gangly weirdness is just peculiar, and when he became part of the Star Wars saga, I was blown away.

“Marriage Story” is a movie for the film industry and those who watch it. Seeing Alda, Dern, Liotta and Wallace Shawn brings back so many memories of beloved films and moments on film that stick with you.

Where does it fail in the realism department? For one thing, there really is no true fault with these people. They, Nicole mainly, grew in different directions and were done in the marriage. Both do things that are wrong, and both are right as well, in other words, they are on completely equal footing. Part of the point of this movie is that despite two parents being equal, the system will never treat them equally.

The other failure is where the child, Henry, is concerned. These parents are essentially perfect. They don’t get super frustrated with him, and they do nothing at all that might divide his feelings toward them. They read with him, play with him, don’t tell him go mind his own business or even seem to punish him for anything – ever. The worst thing Charlie does is not check to make sure a rental car company properly installs a booster seat, a situation that is resolved before Henry ever uses the seat anyway.

Despite its issues, I enjoyed this film immensely. I enjoyed the performances, the story line and the honesty of the characters. I loved delving into the world of New York theater and the Hollywood “space.”

I liked the little truths that were shared – Henry’s rejection of a Frankenstein Halloween costume that had been created by a Broadway costume designer, when he preferred a store-bought Ninja costume; Nicole’s being unable to read aloud in front of a marriage counselor; Charlie making a very stupid mistake when an “observer” was in his apartment to watch his interactions with his child.

This is such a worthwhile movie on so many levels, I must forgive its faults and fall into it, feeling the frustration, love and pain of both its main characters.

Elva K. Österreich may be reached at elva@lascrucesbulletin.com