Marriage Story: Is The Oscar Buzz Justified?

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We do celebrities on this site and our database is full of mentions of divorces. Mentions. We just mention that so and so has been married thrice and divorce twice. I have sometimes wondered why celebrities can’t just seem to remain married. And it is not an American thing anymore, the whole world is plagued with the parasites of divorces. And after watching “Marriage Story”, I now have a better picture of what people pass through just so someone from Kenya would write “they got divorced in 2015”. When next I see a line like this again, I will read it with more compassion – divorces are messy.

“Marriage Story” is a movie by a movie film written, directed and produced by Noah Baumbach. It is an original movie. Not novel, newspaper article, Marvel, cartoon, sequel, or anything inspired. Baumbach just sat down and wrote a story.  And made the story. They said Hollywood is a land of creatives, but original content is and we have to celebrate this. And it turned out a good movie. A really good movie that is already catching Oscar fever.

The story of “Marriage Story”

“Marriage Story” is a story of Charlie Barbers played by Adam Driver, a theater director married to Nicole Barber played by Scarlett Johansson a theater and TV actress. Okay, there are married for ten years with an eight-year or nine-year-old son. So Nicole gets a big role in TV in Los Angeles and leaves with her son to live in Los Angeles until after the show. Left alone in New York City, the devil came a sowed discord, it has to be the devil (who else) and Charlie has an affair.

The story starts in a counselor’s office where the couple is ready to read what they like about each other as the beginning of the process of divorcing amicably. It turns out Nicole is too embarrassed to read her own story about what she likes about her husband. Maybe not too embarrassed, she must have seen through the trick – you read what you like about him, next the bald-headed counselor tells you to go work on it for a few days. She stamps out of the office.

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Nicole finally gets a lawyer Nora Fanshaw played by Laura Dern. She escalates the whole situation. And Charlie Barbers is warned by his first lawyer Jay Marotta tries to warn him. It will be hard to move the boy to New York City for the full custody so he should steal his son and take him away. Does your wife do drugs, coke, drink and all? they ask him. Get a private investigator and go after her, they urge him. And he says no, they are not having a messy divorce.

But things soon change. Nora calls Charlie and informs him his wife wants his full custody, wants child support, wants his money. And Barber has to respond immediately otherwise he has given in and they can have even his balls. He gets a second lawyer, Bert Spitz, an old fatherly man which turns out to be too soft for the battle ahead. Charlie runs back to his first lawyer and they fight like they should, the messy way.

Of course, this is not all that straightforward. Barber’s mother in law still loves him. In fact, it was she who gives him the number to his second lawyer. Nicole’s sister, too, loves him and it is a performance serving him the divorce papers for her. During the first divorce meeting between the attorneys and the couple, Barber can’t choose what to eat and Nicole collects the menu and within two seconds she makes his choice. She still helps with his haircut; he still switches the light off in her place to save energy.

Oscar knocking, justified?

“Marriage Story” is one of a couple of films getting serious Oscar mentions. It is a good movie with a tight plot that allowed zero holes, with memorable dialogues, powerful scenes, fine individual performances, and emotional electricity that grabs you on the neck and draws you in. And it was made with just eighteen million dollars. “The Irishman” for instance was made with nearly ten times this figure at 175 million dollars. It is a major goal scored at a modest price by Noah Baumbach.

The problem I have with “Marriage Story” is that the director didn’t know how to end it and it showed. The film ended where Barber carries a sleeping Henry on his turn to spend time with the boy and Nicole calls him back and ties his shoelace for him. It left with a smile as the credits begin to roll. It was a fine ending but there were too many unnecessary scenes before this. Once the couple sign the papers the marriage story was over but Baumbach kept the “Marriage story” on as though looking to fill up things. The party Nicole and her mother and sister throw. Barber loitering around, and that singing in the club for him all seem like time-fillers.

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There is no perfect movie and “Marriage Story” shouldn’t shy away from Oscar mentions. The strong performances of Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson pushed the story firmer into Oscar-land. There are many who believe the actor and actress have earned the best actor and best actress nominations for these performances. Maybe they have; were people not calling Jennifer Lopez to come and take an Oscar for shaking her ass in Hustlers. I think Scarlett and Driver deserve the Oscar buzz more. But I will be surprised if the movie or its main characters go all the way at the Academy Awards come February 2020. They are good, good enough; I just think there are other movies/actors who are just a whisker or two better.

Update: Laura Dern won the Oscar for her supporting role.

Rating movies is one aspect I have always found very personal. I usually consider how it made me feel and the effect of its catharsis if any play a major role. Can I relate to the characters and events in this move? Are there memorable lines in this movie? Will I like to see this movie again? Yes, yes, yes so I rate it 7/10.

Image source: Empireonline



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