Marriage Story (the 10th feature film by Noah Baumbach) was given a theatrical release of 30 days. It was the 1st film to be distributed primarily by a streaming service (Netflix) to win an Academy Award in an acting category. Also, it’s the first streaming film to win a BAFTA and a Golden Globe in acting categories. The budget was less than $19M and it was shot over only 47 days. Marriage Story premiered at the Venice Film Festival. This film is part of the Criterion Collection; there is a behind-the-scenes (BTS) documentary included. As many critics/viewers have noted, this is a mix of genres: drama (domestic, legal); comedy (incl. the kitchen scene at grandma’s house); and musical. For inspiration, Baumbach looked to screwball comedies from the 1930s- 40s, such as Twentieth Century (1934) and To Be or Not to Be (1942). The close-ups were inspired by Scenes from a Marriage by Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman. One of the framed items seen at grandma’s house is The New Yorker mag article titled Scenes From A Marriage featuring Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson).
Nicole: I never really came alive for myself; I was only feeding his aliveness.
Writer/director Baumbach brought in 3 of his actors (“collaborators”) before he wrote the script for this film: Driver (a close friend), Johansson, and Laura Dern. He interviewed many individuals, from friends to those involved in the business of divorce. It was Driver’s idea for Charlie Barber to be a theatre director. Charlie lived in Indiana before moving to NYC; Driver grew up in that state. The toys Nicole and Henry (Azhy Robertson) play w/ during the opening montage are from the Star Wars franchise, a reference to Driver’s role as Kylo Ren/Ben Solo in the sequels. Sheets w/ Guardians of the Galaxy characters can be seen in Henry’s bed in the NYC apt. That movie is from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), as is Johansson’s character Black Widow. Early in her career, Nicole starred in a hit teen sex comedy called All Over the Girl; Baumbach’s ex-wife (Jennifer Jason Leigh) was one of the young stars of Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
Ted: Criminal lawyers see bad people at their best, divorce lawyers see good people at their worst.
Some viewers asked: “Who is the bad guy in this story?” Well, Charlie had a brief affair w/ his co-worker, Mary Anne (Brook Bloom), so he’s NOT blameless. Nicole describes Charlie as being selfish and wanting things his way, at home and in the theater. The true bad guys could be the divorce lawyers (aside from Bert, played by veteran actor Alan Alda). I esp. liked Driver and Alda’s scenes together; Bert also serves as an empathetic father-figure to Charlie (I noticed on this re-watch). Nora Fanshaw (Dern) is based loosely on celeb attorney Laura Wasser; she represented Dern, Johansson and Baumbach during their respective divorces. The mediation scenes were filmed in Wasser’s office building. Ted (Ray Liotta- who passed away recently) is a shark who fights w/ Nora in court.
Due to location availability, the LA scenes were filmed before the main cast moved to NYC. Charlie’s LA apt is an actual apt; the production rented it, along w/ the unit directly upstairs. No dialogue or moments of hesitation are improvised in this scene; everything was scripted. Driver ended up punching the wall 15 times (ouch); Baumbach famously likes to shoot many takes. At one point, Driver punched so hard that he almost punched through the wall behind the breakaway wall. Over 2 days, Driver and Johansson did 50 takes of the fight- wow! The juice box that Nicole sips on, then sets down before the fight remains on the floor until the final shot of the scene. Baumbach explained: “The juice box is [their son’s] presence in their lives… he’s not here… he’s really powerless in this situation.”
The world of the theater plays a big part in this story; Charlie was directing Nicole’s acting for several years. Nicole’s name recognition brought in much of the audience in the early years; during the separation, Charlie is awarded the MacArthur Genius Grant. The diverse group of actors in Charlie’s troupe serve as his chosen family. You may recognize a few of their faces: veteran theater actor Wallace Shawn (The Princess Bride), Jasmine Cephas Jones (Hamilton; guest star on S6 of Girls), and Mary Wiseman (Star Trek: Discovery). In an interview, Driver said that he and Baumbach discussed making a film version of Company (long before this film). Driver’s performance of Stephen Sondheim’s Being Alive from Company was recorded live and done in one take. Both Baumbach and Driver were fans of the 1970 Broadway musical. Nicole, her mom, and older sister sing You Could Drive a Person Crazy (another song from Company).
Charlie: [Reading Nicole’s letter to Henry] I fell in love with him two seconds after I saw him. And I’ll never stop loving him, even though it doesn’t make sense anymore.
I’ve seen Marriage Story 5x over the past 3 yrs; I don’t re-watch shows/movies much (unless it’s an Austen or Shakespeare adaptation or maybe holiday film). For me, the dialogue (writing) in a film is the most important element. Another element I admire is realism, or real-world themes. On a recent re-watch, I noticed that Baumbach also knows how to make the silence powerful. My fave moments are silent: Charlie sleeping side-by-side w/ Henry when the boy is worried; Charlie and Nicole pull the gate of her LA house shut; and Nicole tying Charlie’s shoe (the last scene; perhaps also a homage to The Way We Were).
 Overall, you see Johansson and Driver put on some amazing performances….so amazing that I’d be shocked if they aren’t at least Oscar-nominated for this film. Well done in every way…and one of the better movies of 2019.
 There is some humour in this movie, at times it is sad and raw.
 Marriage Story is a beautiful and heartbreaking film about the end of a marriage. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson have magnificent performances and chemistry and the direction of Noah Baumbach is top-notch. This film is not to be described by words but watched.
 The movie is brutally honest and feels brutally real. I don’t condone everything being said or done. By neither of the two main characters. But motivations are clear and the story is really well told. The drama unfolds and it does not seem to be made up, rather really slow burning and quite reasonable (well as reasonable as some of the things can be).
-Excerpts from IMDB reviews