Marriage Story [2019] ★★★½

Noah Baumbach’s masterful film about a marriage falling apart ranks among the year’s most powerful experiences. “Marriage Story”, starring Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson in two of the best performances you’ll see this Oscar season, slams you like a body punch scene after scene. Baumbach sets his film between New York and LA, where Nicole and Charlie are on the verge of filing for divorce. He’s a stage director in NYC. She wants to move to LA to do TV, after years of starring in his plays. They also share a kid, an eight-year-old boy who doesn’t understand why his parents have to be in two different places. And so begins “Marriage Story”, a film so well-written and so masterfully directed that you won’t be able to take your eyes off the screen. All the performances are flawless, but Driver’s portrait of a man hopelessly trying to redeem himself is a finely tuned tour de force performance and his shining moment onscreen. Yes, we’ve seen stories about divorce and its effect on children so many times before, but Baumbach’s humane and often hilarious film gets under your skin from the very first moment. Every scene registers poignantly, from an opening sequence where Charlie and Nicole make lists about why they love each other, to a heartbreaking moment where they do the exact opposite somewhere in the middle. Baumbach sits back and lets us watch. His film hits hard. It’s raw, beautiful, devastating, and one of the best movies of the year.

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