“Marriage Story” is Netflix’s most beautiful release


Scarlett Johansson, left, Azhy Robertson and Adam Driver in the movie “Marriage Story.” (Wilson Webb/Netflix)

William Becker , Staff Writer

It is said that family lawyers see good people in their worst moments. “Marriage Story” is a fantastic example of morally sound people being awful to each other in the name of holding a family together. Written and directed by Noah Baumbach and starring Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Laura Dern, Alan Alda and Ray Liotta, “Marriage Story” captures the best work of everyone involved. After a limited theatrical release in early November, the film went straight to Netflix in December. Each year, more and more impressive films are being released by Netflix, and “Marriage Story” is a slap in the face to anyone who disagrees.

Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) are the very flesh and bone of the film itself, with their monologues and character relationships driving every second of “Marriage Story.” Their performances are melancholic, intense, and above all things, believable to the point where it feels as if the viewer is witnessing things that actually happened.

Charlie is an extremely successful director in New York, while Nicole is an actress who has given up her career to follow and help Charlie with his career. Nicole has gotten to the point in her marriage where she feels as though she is merely rolling with the punches and ditching her own life in exchange for Charlie’s. Nicole feels as though she is living in Charlie’s shadow, which sets the stage for the film.

From the very first seconds of “Marriage Story,” it is clear that we are about to see something profound and beautiful. The way that Charlie talks about his wife is poetic, intelligent and meaningful. The opening of the film is quite literally Driver’s character monologuing about what he loves about his wife. It is a powerful opening that feels authentic and non-traditional, immediately capturing the viewer in the film’s somber tone, characterization and almost stage-drama style of writing.

Going into the film without having seen any trailers, the opening could mislead one to believe that it is about a happily married couple, but this is flipped on its head when it becomes clear that they are reading off these things they love about one another to a divorce mediator.

Both main characters are expertly written, constantly feeling layered, authentic and capable of making mistakes. Like any real divorce, both have done things to ruin their marriage. The battle for their belongings quickly turns into a fight for their only child, Henry, which furthers the emotional depth. Divorce lawyers Nora Fanshaw (Laura Dern) and Jay Marotta (Ray Liotta) are thrown into the mix, making things even more complicated and almost comical. Some of the most interesting moments in the entire film are not between the main characters, but between the mud-slinging divorce lawyers.

Beyond that, the film is entirely performance-driven, hitting all the right emotional notes to make an immensely powerful film. The film is a set of characters that are easy to relate to, and even easier to get lost in and care for. “Marriage Story” is an immensely authentic film that might be one of the best Netflix originals ever released.