Why "Marriage Story" is the Realest Film You Didn't Know You Needed to See
Noah Baumbach’s late 2019 Netflix film Marriage Story, won 55 awards and 153 nominations across various organizations like the Academy Awards, BAFTA, Critics Choice Movie Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Producers Guild of America Awards and SAG Awards, among many others. I mean… damn!
I wanted to start this piece on Marriage Story with the above mentioned accolades right there, front and center, first things first, just so you the reader can get a feel of just how big this movie was and is, for those who might not have given it a second thought just because of its title. I, like any other millennial or even Gen Z teen put off watching this movie (despite seeing and hearing more and more about the greatness of this film), simply because it’s about marriage? And I’m in my early 20’s? I didn’t see how a story about a married couple going through a divorce, and how trying to go about it in a way that would least affect their kid, would be appealing to me. I mean, isn't the latter part of that brief film description kind of already what happens in most cases? Well, six months after its release, I finally decided it was time to see what the hype was about!
Noah Baumbach’s film (for which he wrote, directed and co-produced) is a story about the everyday life of Charlie (an NYC stage director and Dad), Nicole (an LA and NYC actress and Mom), and their son, at a time where Charlie and Nicole (portrayed by the ever so talented Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson) are figuring out how to best get divorced. Sound boring? Sure, but trust me when I say, the further you get in the film, the more you realize how much it’s actually engulfed you into the modern day world of divorce – so much so I swear you actually feel it, both physically and emotionally. So wouldn’t you agree that that sounds so intense, for something that off the bat sounded so mundane?! That said, Marriage Story was heavy. Obviously divorce isn't the best topic to talk about, so watching a divorce story unfold before your eyes should definitely feel worse, but even though it does feel worse, it was also incredibly eye-opening with regard to how much we actually overlook and begin to neglect in our day to day lives.
Now if you're familiar with any of Baumbach’s other films, you might’ve realized the theme of every day interactions and the relationship people have with one other is a recurring trend – forcing the audience to look at what is often overlooked and taken for granted. And what makes these films so great (While We’re Young and The Meyerowitz Stories to name a few other works), is that not only do you witness these characters coming full circle and realizing what their actions and words have left them with, but what they’ve simultaneously made them lose as well. So not only do Charlie and Nicole witness what the downfall of their relationship has left them to deal with, but also brought to their attention what the complete disregard to what could be considered menial things, has ultimately made them lose in the end, when it’s already too late.
What parallels therefore, is the audience also being nudged to reflect on that same idea – that not paying attention to the smaller and/or everyday interactions we have with other people, can lead to the biggest losses of all, the ones that you suffer for, that truly shatter hearts to a million pieces leaving people empty and broken, struggling to find their way back to when days were better, to when you felt better, to when you had better, and remembering that either wholly or in part, you actually are to blame. Depressing? A bit, but no one said the world we live in is a fairy tale land where you don’t suffer from the consequences of your actions right?!
Suffering aside, the inside POV Marriage Story provides acts almost as a reminder for people to work on their relationships with other people, to sustain them, to improve them, to better yourself and others at the same time. And in a world so consumed with drama, violence and entertainment, what Baumbach’s film asks us to pay attention to is hard, but maybe it’s precisely what we need. In this technological/digital/social distancing/photoshopped age, maybe what we need is more reality. More raw and real emotions. Something that reminds us about just being human, and pushes us toward working on becoming better human beings. So if you’re up to feeling like you’ve been punched in the stomach, had a stack of textbooks laid on your chest and enlightened all at the same time, then open a new tab, type in "Netflix", and go watch this movie.