Marriage Story Movie Review

If there’s one message that’s abundantly clear throughout Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story, it’s that divorce is awful. Not only due to the wrenching emotions involved (though they’re clearly on display here), but for the process itself. The separating parties here play Monopoly on a regular basis with their son. And the lawyers involved here often treat the dissolution of Charlie and Nicole’s union as a similar game of take and take. It’s so personal, but it’s also business.

Adam Driver’s Charlie is an acclaimed NYC playwright married to Scarlett Johansson’s Nicole, a former teen actress who turned feature player in his theater productions. We meet them as they’ve already decided to divorce. They talk as if they want the procedure to go as smoothly as possible, but soon discover that’s impossible. The problems include custody disputes with their boy Henry (Azhy Robertson), a bicoastal disagreement as Nicole moves back to L.A. to go into TV, and their attorneys always trying to get an edge. Laura Dern’s high-priced Nora represents Nicole while Alan Alda’s weary Bert and Ray Liotta’s unrelenting Jay take turns with Charlie.

Apparently based somewhat on Baumbach’s own experiences, the writer and director is careful not to take sides. Marriage Story doesn’t have heroes or villains and even the counselors are doing their job. It’s the system that’s created them and Baumbach spares no witty anger in condemning it.

This subject matter is nothing new to big screen and it was 40 years ago that Kramer vs. Kramer also took on the divorce industry and won Best Picture for it. We are fortunate that Baumbach spends the time developing Charlie and Nicole into fully formed beings. You’ll root for them and against them. You may hope for a reconciliation, but with a knowing that this incompatibility is legitimate. Lesser films might attempt to find the easy way out.

Marriage Story has a stagey feel to it. There’s long monologues and lengthy scenes of actors discussing their game plan. We even have a couple unexpected musical interludes from the divorcees. Driver and Johansson are certainly up to the task with particularly solid supporting turns from Dern and Alda. The former may have the flashier part, but Alda’s character is equally intergral. When Charlie points out that these proceedings are unnecessarily complex and often contradictory, Bert can’t even muster the energy to counter these points. And while the auteur’s latest doesn’t exactly break new ground, it is often absorbing and exceedingly well performed.

*** (out of four)

Top 25 Highest Grossing Actresses of All Time (20-16)

Continuing on with the Top 25 Highest Grossing Actresses in box office history, today brings us to part two and numbers 20-16.

In case you missed part one, you can find here it here –

Here we go:

20. Meryl Streep

Career Earnings: $2 billion

Franchises: None

Highest Grossing Picture: Mamma Mia! (2008) – $144 million

Number of $100M+ Earners: 6 (Mamma Mia!, Into the Woods, The Devil Wears Prada, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, It’s Complicated, Kramer vs. Kramer)

Lowest Grosser: Dark Matter (2008) – $30,000

Overall Rank: 94

19. Amy Adams

Career Earnings: $2 billion

Franchises: Current Superman/Batman films

Highest Grossing Picture: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) – $329 million

Number of $100M+ Earners: 7 (Batman v Superman, Man of Steel, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, Catch Me If You Can, American Hustle, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Enchanted)

Lowest Grosser: Standing Still (2006) – $30,000

Overall Rank: 93

18. Natalie Portman

Career Earnings: $2 billion

Franchises: Star Wars episodes I-III, Thor

Highest Grossing Picture: Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999) – $474 million

Numbers of $100M+ Earners: 6 (Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, Black Swan, Thor, Thor: The Dark World)

Lowest Grosser: The Other Woman (2011) – $25,000

Overall Rank: 85

17. Sally Field

Career Earnings: $2 billion

Franchises: Second Spider-Man series

Highest Grossing Picture: Forrest Gump (1994) – $330 million

Numbers of $100M+ Earners: Forrest Gump, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Mrs. Doubtfire, Lincoln, Smokey and the Bandit

Lowest Grosser: Two Weeks (2006) – $47,000

Overall Rank: 94

16. Zoe Saldana

Career Earnings: $2 billion

Franchises: Star Trek (with Avatar and Guardians of the Galaxy soon to follow)

Highest Grossing Picture: Avatar (2009) – $760 million

Numbers of $100M+ Earners: 4 (Avatar, Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness)

Lowest Grosser: The Skeptic (2009) – $1,000

Overall Rank: 82

I’ll bring you numbers 15-11 tomorrow!