Toronto 2019: Marriage Story

Scarlett Johansson, Azhy Robertson, and Adam Driver in Marriage Story. Courtesy of TIFF.

Marriage Story presents an authentic look into one family’s life as they breakup and raise their child together while living on opposite coasts.

Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) and Charlie (Adam Driver) are married.  However, the two of them are going through a divorce.  While they originally had no intention of bringing on lawyers, they eventually turn to legal cancel.  Nobody said that divorce would be easy, right?  What makes it so important for the two of them to reach an agreement is their child, Henry (Azhy Robertson).  It doesn’t really matter how the money and other items get divided up in the battle, really.  The only thing that truly matters when all is said and done is Henry’s well-being.

Upon relocating to LA to work on a series, Nicole can depend on both her mother (Julie Hagerty) and sister (Merritt Wever).  While working on a pilot that later gets picked up to series, a colleague advises her to seek out Nora Fanshaw (Laura Dern).  Nora is the best attorney that anyone could have when it comes to divorcing a spouse.  We see the matter play out for the rest of the movie.  But at the end of the day, it’s all about Henry.

Noah Baumbach gives us his best work yet with Marriage Story.  He’s on the list of filmmakers that people can’t wait to see his new projects.  If he’s not ion your list, he should be!  And yet, the film is not limited to any one genre.  It is honestly all over the place.  You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll even be thrilled.  We have multiple dramas and yes, we even get at least two musical numbers.  Hell, the script lays some clues in the process that come back to bite our leading characters in the ass during their divorce.

Some material manages to play for laughs while other parts of the script tug at the heart of our emotions.  One can’t help but feel for this couple given that they are breaking up right in front of our very eyes.  But for the sake of Henry, you want them to work it out.  The thing that makes it the hardest is that Nicole lives in LA while Charlie lives in New York.  If Charlie wants to even be in Henry’s life, he’s going to have to make an effort to travel to California.  And frequently, I must stay.

Even when we’re watching things take place in different cities, the visual aesthetics don’t change.  These aesthetics come through on the 35mm film.  However, what does change is the mode of transportation.  One can walk or ride the train everywhere in New York.  This isn’t the case in Los Angeles.  Cars are an essential vehicle in order to get around.

Netflix brought a loaded pack of films to Toronto.  With two previous festival appearances already, it’s no surprise that Netflix is pushing this with New York still to come.  Of all the Netflix films hitting up festivals, this film will see the most distance between theatrical and streaming release.  It’s for the best given that awards season is still very much about what’s playing in the cinema.

Marriage Story is one of the strongest films this year.

CAST: Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta, Julie Hagerty, Merritt Wever, Azhy Robertson, with Wallace Shawn, Martha Kelly, and Mark O’Brien

Marriage Story holds its Canadian premiere during the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival in the Special Presentations program. Netflix will release the film in theaters on November 6, 2019 and streaming on December 6 2019. Grade: 4.5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.