by Lilly Turley
Written and directed by indie film genius Noah Baumbach (“The Squid and The Whale”) and produced by big-time producer David Heyman (all eight “Harry Potter” films), “Marriage Story” is a film about family, and our aspirations, and what happens when these two things contradict. It’s a type film you don’t expect to come from a story about divorce, and what really pulls you in is in the unexpected poignancy in a narrative about something that can be so dire.
It’s a story about divorce, but written about the characters’ respect for one another, a depiction of separation in a Hollywood film that’s rarely been seen before to this extent. It’s a film that’s so grounded in reality, not trying to be something extravagant and fantastical, which makes it so different from anything else – at least anything that has been received with as much critical praise this awards season. It’s this focus on respect (what could almost be described as vulnerability) that makes the film so captivating. It’s what could be described as a humble film as it’s clear it wasn’t created to rake in hundreds of millions in the box office. You can see that it was created to be what it is, a genuinely great film supported by its genuinely great story.
Randy Newman’s score completely makes the film, however. Well known for his work on Pixar films such as “Toy Story”, “Monsters inc.”, and “A Bug’s Life”, he has a distinctive style that I’m sure when heard by many of us will bring us back to memories of childhood when we watch these films. His style of composition remains unchanged in this film despite the adult themes creating a stark contrast to a Pixar film. It’s this nostalgic undertone of the score that intensifies your affection for the film, as through the reminiscence of childhood in the music, combined with the tales of divorce and broken families, you are brought into a film that represents life and reality as it is. This makes the film a stunning portrayal of the struggles of adulthood being supported by memories of childhood.
Johansson and Driver’s performances are jaw dropping, and you truly believe by the end of the film that they aren’t actors, but are Nicole and Charlie. Their skilled acting helps cocoon you in the environment of the film until the finale when you are suddenly pulled out of its world, slightly confused as you adjust back to reality as you were so drawn in. Both delivered what I considered to be Oscar-winning performances as the emotion they portray and the relationships they make believable completely top off the incredible screenplay they were provided with.
Overall, the film is a ‘must watch’ as one to look out for in this year’s award season going into the esteemed academy awards with six core nominations of Best Picture, Best Actor (Driver), Best Actress (Johansson), Best Supporting Actress (Dern) and Best Original Screenplay (Baumbach) and Best Original Score (Newman).