2019 Film Reviews – 66: Marriage Story [dir. Noah Baumbach; 2019]

There’s no doubt that much of Marriage Story is touching and memorable. As it crosses over from America’s east coast to its west, this story of a couple handling the realities of a break-up – and its effects on their child – impresses with its honesty and its refusal to descend into mawkishness. But I’d suggest that its one-sidedness is a serious and fundamental flaw. Perhaps because the material doesn’t give her enough to work with – or probably because her acting skills simply aren’t up to the challenge – Scarlett Johannson’s character far too often comes across as petulant, superficial and insensitive. Meanwhile, the increasingly bemused Adam Driver gets all the best lines, all the most heartbreaking scenes and all the tragic-hero framing. Unsurprisingly, he has a terrific time with these advantages and delivers what is one of his finest performances so far. All of which makes it very difficult not to see Marriage Story as a tale told firmly from a male point of view. A bit more of the balance and broad-mindedness for which Baumbach is famed would have gone a long way.


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