Marriage Story

Eight minutes in and this movie’s already breaking my heart. Nicole and Charlie have just spent 8 minutes sharing the things they love most about each other, and their lists are touchingly precise. But it turns out they’re in mediation, and the exercise is meant to kick off their divorce proceedings. Nicole welches – she doesn’t want to read hers, and I sort of can’t blame her. It’s so vulnerable to admit that you once loved the person you no longer love. Fuck.

Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) is a talented actor and the star of a play directed by Charlie (Adam Driver). They share a son, Henry, and a New York City apartment but now that they’ve split, Nicole plans to return to L.A. to work in television. Charlie intends and expects to stay in New York. Though they originally swore off lawyers, agreeing to do things “amicably,” they have one asset that’s precious to them both: Henry. Fighting for custody and for coasts is important to both, so they lawyer up and get down to fighting dirty.

Interviewing lawyers, one dirtbag (Ray Liotta) asks Charlie “Does your wife do drugs or anything? Coke?” he asks, hopefully. Fuck. It’s gross. It’s gross that two people who loved each other and each care deeply for their young son can’t be civil. Civil? They are so hopelessly and desperately past civil that the word looks meaningless here on the page. And the lawyers? They’re fucking hyenas looking to devour their prey.

A Marriage Story is actually a Divorce Story. As both a child of divorce and a divorcee myself, I feel both sides of this thing so acutely that I feel as though I’ve been impaled by my own hopes and dreams. My parents’ divorce was the best thing that ever happened to us; we hated my awful father as a unit and breathed a sigh of relief when he finally left our house for the last time. My mother raised four daughters by herself. Money was tight but there was never any doubt that we were better off without him. But is there a small part of me that wondered why he never fought for custody – never even asked for visitation? A small(ish) part of me that will always wonder if there’s something fundamentally unlovable about me? Leavable about me? My first marriage ended badly, traumatically, like a death. As they do sometimes. We had no child to fight over so one day I just never saw him again and now I have no idea whether the man I once promised to love and cherish forever is dead or alive. And now I’m married to Sean and it’s wonderful and stable and safe and sexy and I hardly ever stay awake all night wondering why it’s so easy to stop loving me and if it could happen again.

Sean saw this one at TIFF (without me – I was off reviewing Jojo or Joker or somesuch) and told you he liked it nearly 3 months ago, but to me he said: it will make you cry. And of course he was right. Written and directed by Noah Baumbach, you don’t really stand a chance of remaining unmoved. Marriage Story is an insightful and well-aimed gut punch. It hit me right in the feels. But even Sean, who comes from a cozy nuclear family and is married to the most amazing woman on earth, even Sean was stirred up. Love is easy. Marriage is hard. Divorce is a goddamned hole in the heart.

29 thoughts on “Marriage Story

  1. J.

    I’ll add this to my list, but, I’ll stock up on some tissues.

    … and this post gave me the feels, so cheers for sharing your story. I can’t imagine experiencing divorce. A broken heart is bad enough.

    Like

    Reply
  2. leendadll

    O’mnot a fan of Adam Driver but I recognize that he seems to select, or be selected for, really outstanding works. I’ll add this to my queue.
    Sorry about your dad. Maybe he was just from the era when men didn’t get custody or have much involvement in raising kids???? I’m sorry it hurt you.

    Like

    Reply
    1. Jay Post author

      I don’t like Adam Driver either – I knew him first from Girls and he played a douche so convincingly that it’s tainted him for me forever.

      Like

      Reply
  3. kindredspirit23

    I have been divorced twice. Now single as I have decided to remain so at 61 until I make better choices and decisions. I am smart and caring, but, since my stroke, I am not certain (as I tell my stroke counselor) that I can really love again. Not sure whether that is good or bad, I flirt, I talk, and I hope. However, I don’t promise and don’t pursue with the intent (outwardly or inwardly) of marriage. I am honest, up front, and try to not manipulate. I do not ever wish to get into a relationship or marriage that puts me through what most of the others have. I guess I have grown. Good post. Didn’t know you were female – blog’s name threw me. lol. Nice Review.
    Scott

    Like

    Reply
  4. kindredspirit23

    By the way, 2 children from 1st marriage – I love them so dearly. They are in their 30s now and doing well. I tried hard to make sure they survived the divorce whether I did or not – succeeded there, too.

    Like

    Reply
    1. Jay Post author

      Yeah, kids are resilient. I think my mother at first felt she should try to ‘stay together for the kids’ but eventually realized she had to leave for the kids. Divorce is hard but staying in a toxic situation is worse.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  5. Rosaliene Bacchus

    Thanks for the great review, Jay! I’ve been there, too, and will no doubt cry when I get the chance to watch this movie. My heart already goes out to Henry, caught between two warring parents.

    My ex-husband abandoned his sons in Brazil to return to our native land, Guyana. To go ahead with our lives and reunite with my family in the USA, I had to ask for a divorce. It hurt that the lawyer–recommended by a friend in Guyana–who handled my case assumed that I was the guilty party in the breakup.

    Like

    Reply
  6. Widdershins

    This genre’s not really my cuppa tea and I’m on the fence with Adam, (the only thing I’ve seen him in is star wars and that strange zombie movie with Tilda Swinton) but I’m rather fond of Scarlett, so this in on my ‘maybe-probably’ list.

    My dad was my hero … until he took off in the middle of the night with my younger brother, and the woman next door and her kids (one of which was a girl) … turns out he’d been schtuping her for months … I was 12.
    I asked him years later why he took my brother (who he wasn’t all that fond of and who was really connected to my mother) with him instead of me, (we got on like a house on fire) and he said it was because I was a girl and would be too much trouble.
    We never forgive and we never forget the wounds of our fathers … like all such wounds we learn how to live with them, and, most of the time, transcend them.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  7. Pingback: 25+ Marriage Story Reviews – The Director Breaks Down Fight Scene – Movies, Movies, Movies

  8. Liz A.

    It wasn’t you. You know that, right? Because fathers can remain in their children’s lives after divorce. They just have to want to. (Mine did. He didn’t go far, and we still have a relationship with him.) If they don’t want to, that’s them. Never the children.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Jay Post author

      I mean, he wasn’t really in our lives even whenthey were together. He avoided us and we were afraid of him, so we rarely mixed. There wasn’t much to miss, just the idea, I guess.

      Like

      Reply
  9. Aaron DeLoria

    Watching both their struggles between what they each want and what their son wants really hit home for me. At times they are almost directed by their son; he commands which one he wants attention from, and they willfully listen as if they are actors on a stage. Watching this conflict with their individual creative ambitions worked so well for me.

    Like

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s