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By Megan Bianco
Director Noah Baumbach’s new film, Marriage Story, is fortunately not very similar to Robert Benton’s classic, Kramer vs. Kramer (1979). While both are centered on a married couple with a 5-year-old son divorcing, each movie looks at the process from different angles. If anything, Marriage Story hearkens back to Baumbach’s own breakthrough feature from more than a decade ago, The Squid and the Whale (2005).
From the outside, Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) and Charlie (Adam Driver) have seemingly perfect lives. They both have successful entertainment careers: Charlie is the best arthouse theatre director in NYC, and Nicole is a Hollywood actress who switched to the stage once she married Charlie. On the inside, we see Charlie has been sleeping on the couch at night, then attending marriage counseling, and Nicole is seriously considering signing up for a TV series as an excuse to spend six months in L.A.
The family drama has plenty of the usual “Baumbach-isms” for aesthetic and comic relief, which could be divisive to some viewers who aren’t fans. But the film is at most a tour de force for both Driver and Johansson, both of whom will most likely gain nominations throughout the awards circuit later this season. A particular standout is a nearly 10-minute sequence of Charlie and Nicole continuously yelling at each other. Marriage Story is another personal tale of Baumbach’s. In The Squid and the Whale, we saw the home deconstruction through the eyes of him as a child in the middle of it. Now we see him as the father.