Movie Review: Marriage Story


In 1996 a book was published called “The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy”. What I remember most about this book about the realities of average people becoming a Millionaire or multi-Millionaire in the United States is that the overwhelming majority of them who were married – never got divorced. Not ever. If they got married, they all stayed married and this is one of the primary reasons that they became wealthy, and more importantly, stayed wealthy. Failure was never an option when it comes to the extreme and very often life ending financial nightmare of divorce. If there are children involved, staying married is even more imperative both for the emotional stability of the child and to avoid unrecoverable financial loss.

The new movie “Marriage Story” is by far the best movie I have ever seen about the extremely harsh real life of divorce, both emotionally and financially. The acting from both Adam Driver as Charlie and Scarlett Johansson as Nicole is the best of their careers, especially one scene that ended with an emotional explosion from Driver that might just win him an Academy Award this year. Marriage Story is both written and directed by Noah Baumbach and the screenplay, story and especially the dialogue is about as good as I have ever seen. The dialogue at times is erratic, indirect, nonsensical and in some cases almost crazy; but it sounds like real life. How people really talk, is one of the most difficult aspects of screenwriting to master. The inevitable emotional blowup as Charlie and Nicole try to end their marriage without lawyers is acting at a level of as impressive as “Fences”, starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, released in late 2016.

Some of the best lines in this movie were spoken by actor Ray Liotta who plays Charlies lawyer: “Criminal Lawyers see bad people at their best and Divorce Lawyers see good people at their worst”. The reality of 25 thousand dollar retainers and legal fees that are 400, 450 or 950 an hour are overwhelming to hear about for anyone who has never been divorced and even for the many who have.  We have all heard real truth that the only person who wins in any divorce – is the lawyer. One of the clearest messages in this great film.

Actor Laura Dern plays Nicole’s lawyer and she will probably receive a best supporting actress nomination for this role. Everyone in this production is at their best, including Julie Hagerty as Nicole’s mother, Alan Alda who is outstanding as one of Charlie’s lawyers and Azhy Robertson who plays Henry, the couple’s learning disabled and troubled son.

What complicates this heart breaking story is that Charlie and Nicole live and work in New York City on Broadway for many years and when Nicole received and acting job in California, their entire relationship falls apart.  Logistics of a great distance, financial problems and custody of a child has ended millions of marriages.  When a marriage works, studies have shown that people live longer and are much happier than those who never marry.  When a marriage fails, many never recover from the emotional and financial loss. This real life choice is one of the most challenging aspects of being alive for all of us. There is no perfect situation and no guarantees for anyone who decides to get married.

The movie “Marriage Story” is the second in recent weeks to be released in very few theaters before premiering in Netflix on December 6th. On November 27th “The Irishman” was released on Netflix and seems that the movie industry has changed to this new formula of producing high quality movies at the end of the year funded by Amazon or Netflix.  Marriage Story is a guaranteed nominee for best picture along with the Irishman and there will be many nominations for both of these great movies. I agree with all of the very high reviews and highly recommend this movie as one of the best of 2019.

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