"Marriage Story" is probably so titled because "Divorce Story" sounds less appealing. Either way, it is a tough sell: a drama with dark comedy elements about a relationship falling apart. But I can tell you it is one of the year's best movies - tender, painful, funny and real.
Writer and director Noah Baumbach's screenplay feels authentic and lived-in, partly because he's partially basing it on his own divorce.Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson both deliver some of their best work. They're both up-and-coming artists - he a theater director in New York, she an actress with opportunities on LA, which causes the split with a young boy caught in the middle. The movie isn't interested in taking sides. Both characters are sympathetic and flawed.
There's also a fantastic group of supporting characters including Laura Dern and Ray Liotta and attack dog lawyers and Alan Alda as a divorce attorney with perhaps too much of a heart for this business.
The movie plays like a piece of theater with long takes and intimate spaces, but Baumbach's cinematic storytelling has never been more assured.
"Marriage Story" contains my favorite shot of any I've seen this year - two people trapped together but helplessly alone. Look at the use of lines - how the subway rails trap them like prison bars. See?
But beyond the film nerd stuff, "Marriage Story" is richly rewarding - a love story where happily ever after is found in the unexpected.
Now streaming on Netflix.
EPPLER'S RATING: * * * * 1/2
* * * * * Incredible - One of the best of the year* * * * Excellent - Touches greatness with only minor quibbles* * * Good - Plenty to like, definitely worth seeing* * Mediocre - You can do better