Marriage Story (2019 film)

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Marriage Story
MarriageStoryPoster.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byNoah Baumbach
Produced by
Written byNoah Baumbach
Starring
Music byRandy Newman[1]
CinematographyRobbie Ryan
Edited byJennifer Lame
Production
companies
Distributed byNetflix
Release date
  • August 29, 2019 (2019-08-29) (Venice)
  • November 6, 2019 (2019-11-06) (United States)
Running time
136 minutes[2]
Country
  • United States
  • United Kingdom
LanguageEnglish
Budget$18 million[3]
Box office$1.2 million[4]

Marriage Story is a 2019 British-American comedy-drama film written and directed by Noah Baumbach. The film stars Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta, Azhy Robertson, Julie Hagerty, Matthew Shear and Merritt Wever, following a married couple going through a coast-to-coast divorce.

The project was announced in November 2017, with the cast joining that month. Filming took place in Los Angeles and New York City between January and April of the following year. It had its world premiere at Venice Film Festival on August 29, 2019, and began a limited theatrical release on November 6, 2019, to be followed by digital streaming on December 6, 2019, by Netflix. The film received critical acclaim, particularly for Baumbach's screenplay and direction, as well as its acting (particularly that of Johansson, Driver, and Dern), and musical score. It was chosen by the American Film Institute, the National Board of Review and Time magazine as one of the ten best films of the year.[5][6]

Plot[edit]

Charlie Barber (Adam Driver) is a successful theater director in New York City. His theater company is currently producing a play that stars his wife Nicole (Scarlett Johansson), a former teen film actress. The couple is experiencing marital troubles and sees a mediator, who suggests they each write down what they like about one another, but Nicole is too embarrassed to read hers aloud and they decide to forego the counseling.

Nicole is offered a starring role in a television pilot in Los Angeles, and she decides to leave the theater company and temporarily live with her mother in West Hollywood, taking the couple’s young son Henry with her. Charlie elects to remain in New York, as the play is in the process of moving to Broadway. When he flies out to Los Angeles to visit his family, he is served divorce papers. Despite the couple agreeing to split amicably and forego lawyers, Nicole hires family lawyer Nora Fanshaw (Laura Dern), who urges her to pressure Charlie into lawyering up himself. Charlie first meets with Jay Marotta (Ray Liotta), a brash and expensive lawyer who urges Charlie to fight dirty, but he decides to instead hire Bert Spitz (Alan Alda), a retired family lawyer who favors a more civil and conciliatory approach.

On Bert’s counsel, Charlie rents an apartment in Los Angeles to be closer to his family and strengthen his custody case. Charlie wishes to avoid going to court, so Bert arranges a meeting with Nora and Nicole. Nora argues that Charlie refused to respect Nicole’s wishes to move back to Los Angeles, and that Henry would prefer to stay with his mother than fly back and forth between coasts. In a private sidebar, Bert advises Charlie to drop his New York residency altogether, but a frustrated Charlie refuses and decides to fire him.

Charlie wins a MacArthur Fellowship grant and uses the first payout to hire Jay on retainer. The case moves to court, where Nora and Jay argue aggressively on behalf of their clients and attempt to paint the other party in a negative light. Nora highlights Charlie’s past infidelity and emotional distance, while Jay exaggerates Nicole’s drinking habits as alcoholism. Meanwhile, Charlie and Nicole remain friendly out of court and share time with Henry, who is increasingly annoyed with the back and forth.

Disillusioned with the legal process, the couple decides to meet in private away from the lawyers. A friendly discussion in Charlie’s apartment devolves into a bitter argument in which Nicole claims he doesn’t care about her and Charlie punches a wall and says he wishes she would die. He then breaks down in shame and apologizes; Nicole comforts him. Soon after, the couple agrees to relax their demands and reach an equal agreement to finalize the divorce, though Nora negotiates slightly better terms for Nicole.

One year later, Charlie’s play has a successful Broadway run while Nicole’s pilot (which she also directed) is nominated for several awards. Charlie informs Nicole that he’s taken a one-year UCLA residency and will be living in Los Angeles full-time to be closer to Henry. Later, he discovers Henry reading Nicole’s list of things she likes about Charlie that she’d been embarrassed to read. Henry asks Charlie to read it aloud to him, and Charlie does so, becoming emotional as Nicole watches from afar. That night, Nicole offers to let Charlie take Henry home even though it’s her night with him. As Charlie walks out to his car carrying a sleeping Henry, Nicole runs out, ties Charlie’s shoe, and says goodbye.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

The idea for the film first came to Baumbach in 2016, while in post-production on The Meyerowitz Stories. He began to do research on the subject, and met with three-time collaborator Driver to discuss the role.[3] In November 2017, it was announced Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Laura Dern, Merritt Wever and Azhy Robertson had joined the cast of the film. David Heyman produced the film under his Heyday Films banner, and Netflix agreed to produce and distribute the film.[7][8][9] In March 2018, Kyle Bornheimer joined the cast of the film.[10] In June 2018, it was announced Ray Liotta had been cast in the film.[11]

Principal photography began on January 15, 2018 and lasted 47 days through April 2018, taking place in New York City and Los Angeles.[12]

Speaking of writing the film following his divorce from actress Jennifer Jason Leigh, as well as his parents' divorce, Baumbach said:

"I have a real connection to the material ... [but] I was also at a time in my life where many of my friends were getting divorced. I saw it as an opportunity to do something more expansive, so I did a lot of research. I interviewed a lot of my friends, and friends of friends, and then also lawyers, judges, mediators."[13]

Following the release of the film, Baumbach said, “I showed her the script and then I showed her the movie a little bit ago. She likes it a lot.”[14]

Release[edit]

Marriage Story had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on August 29, 2019.[15] It also screened at the Telluride Film Festival on August 31, 2019.[16] the Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2019,[17] where it was first runner-up for the People's Choice Award.[18] It also served as the Centerpiece selection at the New York Film Festival on October 4, 2019,[19] and the BFI London Film Festival on October 6, 2019.[20][21] It was released in a limited release on November 6, 2019 before releasing on Netflix on December 6, 2019.[22]

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

Although Netflix does not publicly disclose theatrical gross of its films, IndieWire estimated Marriage Story grossed around $160,000 from five theaters in its opening weekend (and a total $200,000 over its first five days). The site wrote that "normally, these (estimated) numbers would be disappointing" but "given the theaters and more limited seating, as well as awareness of imminent streaming access within the month" it was sufficient for Netflix.[23] Playing at 16 theaters the following weekend the film made an estimated $140,000,[24] and then $340,000 from 85 theaters in its third.[25] Expanding to 130 theaters in its fourth weekend of release the film made $360,000, for a month-long running total of $1.2 million.[4]

Critical response[edit]

The performances of Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, and Laura Dern garnered widespread critical acclaim.

Rotten Tomatoes reported that 97% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 240 reviews, with an average rating of 9.04/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "Observing a splintering union with compassion and expansive grace, the powerfully acted Marriage Story ranks among writer-director Noah Baumbach's best works."[26] Metacritic assigned the film a weighted average score of 94 out of 100 based on 48 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[27]

Variety's Owen Gleiberman wrote: "At once funny, scalding, and stirring, built around two bravura performances of incredible sharpness and humanity, it's the work of a major film artist, one who shows that he can capture life in all its emotional detail and complexity — and, in the process, make a piercing statement about how our society now works."[28] Alonso Duralde of TheWrap praised the performances and Baumbach's screenplay, saying "One wonders if Baumbach left references to Kramer vs. Kramer or Two for the Road on the cutting-room floor, but either way, Marriage Story is a film that deserves to be mentioned in their company. It's devastating, essential, and destined to be remembered long after this awards cycle ends."[29]

Time Magazine's annual best performances of the year list by Stephanie Zacharek listed Driver as the third best performance of 2019.[30]

Accolades[edit]

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipients Result Ref.
AARP's Movies for Grownups Awards January 11, 2020 Best Picture Marriage Story Pending [31]
Best Supporting Actress Laura Dern Pending
Best Director Noah Baumbach Pending
Best Screenwriter Pending
Readers' Choice Poll Marriage Story Pending
American Film Institute December 4, 2019 Top 10 Films of 2019 Won [32]
Atlanta Film Critics Circle Awards December 1, 2019 Top 10 films 3rd place [33]
Best Lead Actor Adam Driver Won
Best Supporting Actress Laura Dern Won
British Independent Film Awards December 1, 2019 Best International Independent Film Marriage Story Nominated [34]
Gotham Independent Film Awards December 2, 2019 Best Feature Won [35]
Best Actor Adam Driver Won
Best Screenplay Noah Baumbach Won
Hollywood Critics Association Awards January 9, 2020 Best Picture Marriage Story Pending [36]
Best Male Director Noah Baumbach Pending
Best Original Screenplay Pending
Best Actor Adam Driver Pending
Best Actress Scarlett Johansson Pending
Best Supporting Actress Laura Dern Pending
Hollywood Film Awards November 3, 2019 Hollywood Supporting Actress Award Won [37]
Hollywood Film Composer Award Randy Newman Won
Hollywood Music in Media Awards November 20, 2019 Best Original Score in a Feature Film Nominated [38]
Best Music Supervision – Film George Drakoulias Nominated
Film Independent Spirit Awards February 8, 2020 Best Feature David Heyman
Noah Baumbach
Pending [39]
Best Screenplay Noah Baumbach Pending
Robert Altman Award
  • Noah Baumbach
  • Douglas Aibel
  • Francine Maisler
  • Alan Alda
  • Laura Dern
  • Adam Driver
  • Julie Hagerty
  • Scarlett Johansson
  • Ray Liotta
  • Azhy Robertson
  • Merritt Wever
Won
New York Film Critics Circle Awards December 4, 2019 Best Supporting Actress Laura Dern Won
Santa Barbara International Film Festival January 17, 2020 Outstanding Performers of the Year Award Adam Driver
Scarlett Johansson
Won [40]
San Diego International Film Festival November 4, 2019 Audience Choice – Studio Film Marriage Story Won [41][42]
Satellite Awards February 7, 2020 Best Motion Picture – Drama Pending [43]
Best Director Noah Baumbach Pending
Best Screenplay – Original Pending
Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama Adam Driver Pending
Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama Scarlett Johansson Pending
Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Laura Dern Pending
Best Original Score Randy Newman Pending
Best Film Editing Jennifer Lame Pending
Toronto International Film Festival September 15, 2019 People's Choice Award Marriage Story Runner-up [18]


References[edit]

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External links[edit]