Tag Archives: Noah Baumbach

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.

TIFF19: Marriage Story

Marriage Story picks up long after most romances have wrapped up. Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) were once in love, but as disagreements piled up, they grew apart. Now, as the film begins, they can barely tolerate each other, and they now have to figure out how to uncouple. Of course, since Charlie and Nicole have had trouble agreeing on day-to-day things, agreeing on terms of separation is next-to-impossible.

UNB_Unit_09413_rgbMy synopsis might make the film seem dry, boring, or depressing. Marriage Story is none of those things. Certainly, it is often sad and difficult, but just as often, it is sweet and funny, and all the while, it is insightful and real.

There are many wonderful moments in Marriage Story, and the starting point for all of them is that neither Charlie nor Nicole is a bad person. Director Noah Baumbach never asks the audience to choose sides and never assigns blame for this breakdown. Charlie and Nicole are simply two people who have grown apart and who are being pulled in different directions.

Many films try to gloss over these stresses or claim that love will overcome them. But sometimes love is not enough. Marriage Story tackles that reality in a way that will ring true to anyone who has ever been in a serious relationship.

Marriage Story is one of those rare films that transcends genre. More than that, it is a film that is remarkably relatable and has something to offer for everyone. It is one of the best films of the year, and one you should watch as soon as it becomes available on Netflix on December 6. And if you have the chance to catch Marriage Story sooner (a limited theatrical release is scheduled for November), take it. It’s that good.

 

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

The Meyerowitz family is fractured. Danny (Adam Sandler) is a self-described ‘extremely good parker’ with little else on the horizon. A loving dad and devoted house husband, his life is in transition now that he and his wife are separating and his only daughter is off to college. Moving in with his estranged father Harold (Dustin Hoffman) seems like an opportunity to get to know him, except it turns out that feeling’s not mutual.

Harold abandoned Danny and daughter Jean (Elizabeth Marvel) in favour of a new family when they were quite young. He’s never acted as a real father to them and even now he’s mostly only interested in what they can do for him. Not to mention the complicating factor of his alcoholic wife Maureen (Emma Thompson) who MV5BN2M5YzA2ODAtOTNmMi00MGYyLWIxYWYtY2M2NmE4ZGE1ODQ1XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjAwODA4Mw@@._V1_inserts herself into cramped dynamics like she’s determined to put the Wicked back into Step Mother. Both throw out the red carpet when favoured son Matthew (Ben Stiller) makes a reluctant appearance. Harold has fostered a competitive streak between his children by different mothers but they otherwise aren’t close. So when their father’s life and career necessitate them pulling together, it’s a little awkward. Actually, it’s extremely awkward and kind of heart breaking. Because they aren’t bad people, they’ve just been starved of their father’s love and have no idea how to act like a family now that there’s no real chance that things will ever be different.

This being a Noah Baumbach work, the comedy isn’t broad, but it is damn funny. When I finished it (a Netflix original) I immediately wanted to restart it, just to catch all the amazing little asides and offhand jokes that are so casually but expertly tossed out.

Although Harold is a self-absorbed contrarian, he’s not quite despicable in the hands of Dustin Hoffman and his grizzled white beard. Adam Sandler gives a nuanced performance that’ll make you believe in him as an actor once again – and it’s been a good long while since that’s been true. Actually, there are loads of big names, some in pretty small roles, but everyone is kind of spectacular in this. Having recently had no patience for Golden Exits at the New Hampshire Film Festival, I wondered if the our film lexicon was finally full to bursting with movies about privileged white people whining about their lives. But the family dysfunction in The Meyerowitz Stories feels relatable and authentic and the characters are trying too hard to be decent people in the face of it all: I kind of loved it. It’s amazing how many years later childhood resentments and jealousies can bubble to the surface, but this is the kind of movie that makes us all feel “Same” in one way or another, and it just feels good and cathartic that we aren’t alone.

 

 

Mistress America

It was about this time 6 years ago when my mother went to her school’s Christmas party and the janitor brought a date who thought my mom would be perfect for her dad. Turns out, she was right, and now Jay has a new daddy.

That’s the condensed version, anyway. She has 4 kids, he has 2, and together they have 5 grandsons and 1 extremely imminent granddaughter. We have a weird blended family but those sweet grandkids have never known any different.

In Mistress America, two women make nice because their parents are about to marry. Tracy, a lonely college freshman (Lola Kirke) is Greta Gerwig shines as a scattered New Yorker in her new film Mistress Americathrilled to go along on the adventures of her impetuous 30-something soon to be step-sister, Brooke (Greta Gerwig). Sure she’s uneducated and unstable, but to an 18-year-old, that seems glamourous and free.

Greta Gerwig is a force of nature – like, that’s her permanent state. Is Gerwig her generation’s Diane Keaton? Or maybe she’s a little Indie queen and screwball comedienne Greta Gerwig co-writes new script with Noah Baumbachmore screwball than that? I can never quite put my finger on it, but she’s a gem and a star and man oh man I can never keep my eyes off her. Her performances feel free and unselfconscious, just totally unleashed and genuine. She has a physicality that I’m not used to with young actresses, a way of using the space, of filling up the screen without taking up all the room.

She co-wrote this script with director Noah Baumbach and the lines just keep zooming by; you can almost see the trail they’re blazing around the screen as they get launched by one character and hit their target. This is Baumbach’s funniest – and dare I say, most Film Review-Mistress Americaaccessible – work to date. It’s frenetic but feels more accomplished than his previous collaboration with Gerwig, Frances Ha.

The movie’s as flighty as its main character, but I was utterly charmed not just by the leads but by the entire cast, who lend the movie that feel of an older comedy, with randoms popping up with funny lines and disappearing again just as quickly, keeping us guessing, keeping us on our toes. It makes for an almost caffeinated ride, and it has left me wanting (needing?) more.

While We’re Young

Alright! Another Noah Baumbach movie!

This is what I thought when i first heard about While We’re Young. It’s only when I IMDBed him that I realized that I had really only seen one of his movies. I missed Greenberg. I don’t know how but I missed Frances Ha. But I saw The Squid and the Whale. Baumbach’s 2005 family drama was funny in the saddest way possible and I guess it left so much of an impression on me that I began to think of myself as a fan. But apparently not enough of one to actually watch his other While We're Youngfilms.

I did manage to catch his latest- While We’re Young- last week though. Like The Squid and the Whale, it’s funny in a sad way but much more laugh-out-loud funny, while TSATW was more cringe out-loud funny. Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts play  Josh and Cornelia- a forty-something married couple who are finding less and less in common with their friends that have little to talk about other than all the babies that they’re having. Josh starts worrying that his best days are behind him when he discovers that he has arthritis arthritis but all that changes when he meets Jamie and Darby- a couple of sensation-seeking twenty-somethings played by Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried. Hungry for new While We're Young 2experiences, Josh and Cornelia spend as much time with these new friends as they can and their relationship moves in some surprising directions.

Adam Driver has a weird presence on screen and I’m not sure how I feel about him yet but he and Seyfried are fun to watch as the young couple with surprisingly old-fashioned tastes. They believe it’s better to build a desk than to buy one. They have an extensive record collection while their older friends keep all their music online.. Baumbach doesn’t understand youngsters today any better than Josh does though and the forty-somethings get all the best moments. He manages to keep Stiller’s While We're Young 3instinct to overplay everything to death mostly under control and Watts, in her fourth film since we started this site six months ago, is better than she’s been in a long time, especiallyl when she’s dancing to Tupac.

While We’re Young works best as a comedy about two people trying to be young again and is smart enough to keep it simple and relatable . It loses its focus by the end with a lot of bizarre turns in the last half hour but still gives us a lot to think about- especially when I realized I, at the age of 33, related to Josh and Cornelia a lot more than I did Jamie and Darby. Guess I’m due for another sacred puking ritual.