Thursday, March 26, 2020

Film Review: Marriage Story

Sexuality/Nudity Acceptable
Violence Acceptable
Vulgarity Mature
Anti-Catholic Philosophy Mature

I do not understand the appeal of Noah Baumbach.

The writer/director is much lauded by critics, but I cannot fathom the appeal.  Frances Ha is boring and The Meyerwitz Stories is pointless.  The same can be said of Marriage Story.

I guess we are supposed to relate to these two characters and how their divorce hurts their lives.  But I could not relate at all to their situation.

The story revolves around Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) and Charlie (Adam Driver).  He is a director and she is an actress.  They are married but are going through horrible marriage problems at the beginning of their story.  Nicole moves away from Charlie in New York to Los Angeles and she takes their young son Henry (Azhy Robertson) with her.  What starts as a separation evolves into an ugly divorce with custody of Henry in the balance.

This movie wants to be the modern Kramer vs. Kramer, which is another movie I detest.  It basically comes down to two people who think that they are the center of the universe and do not realize that when you make the VOW of marriage, you promise to put your spouse and your child first.  Both characters have their dead marriage's blood on their hands.  Nicole opens up in a long monologue about how she lost her identity to becoming a mom.  I've spoken to a number of mothers who could relate to the struggle of always giving to your family and receiving little acknowledgment in return.  But that is what a mother does: she has to put the needs of her children first.  To do any less is utterly selfish.

Charlie is no better.  In a later scene he whines about how he married Nicole in their twenties and how he had to give up hooking up with hot women because he was married to her.  For him, marriage was a leash.  A husband loves his wife and forsakes others he loves her beyond compare and will lay down his life for her.  Charlie even cheats on Nicole and excuses it with the fact that two had stopped being intimate.  Charlie is not a man.  He is an emotional vampire.  He says to Nicole that she shouldn't be angre because he had sex with another woman but because he laughed with another woman.  Because he wasn't having his emotional or sexual needs satisfied, he decided his vows no longer mattered.

Look, there are many people who I know and love who have gone through divorce, my parents included.  This is not an indictment of all of those who've gone through this horrible process.  This is an indictment of Charlie and Nicole.

There is a line in A Man for All Seasons where St. Thomas More says to his daughter Meg:

“When a man takes an oath, Meg, he's holding his own self in his own hands. Like water and if he opens his fingers then, he needn't hope to find himself again. Some men aren't capable of this, but I'd be loathe to think your father one of them.”

Charlie and Nicole seem to have no understanding that they have taken a sacred vow.  And once they choose to break it, they will not find themselves, but lose themselves utterly.

The only thing that stops this movie from being a total disaster are the performances.  Johansson and Driver are amazing.  As much as I hated their characters I appreciated the depths to which the entered into their emotional journey.  Laura Dern won an Oscar for her slick and (from my interpretation) diabolical attorney who coaxes Nicole into turning the divorce into war.  Alan Alda also provides some nice moments as Charlie's attorney, who rides the line between folksy and incompetent.

As the movie went on, I kept wanting the character to wake up and ask themselves: "What would be best for our child?"   If they had done that, then maybe they could have gotten over themselves and made this marriage story with a happily ever after.

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