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Marriage Story


Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Ray Liotta, Julie Hagerty, Alan Alda, Azhy Robertson, Wallace Shawn, Merritt Wever

Director: Noah Baumbach

A belated review for this vastly overrated drama of marital break-up and tug-of-love, which languishes a long way behind the subtleties of such classics of the genre as Kramer Vs Kramer.

Protagonists here are Nicole (Johansson), an actress, and Charlie (Driver), a theatre director. We briefly see them in happier times in the first reel, but the body of the film is given over to the vicious - and costly - break-up of their 10-year marriage.

Nicole, whose ability was nurtured by her husband-to-be, starts to see herself as a mere adjunct to his talent, leaves their hit play when it transfers to Broadway, and flies off to make a TV pilot in LA, where she inexplicably decides she wants a divorce. 'Why are you so angry?' asks one character of her, and indeed it is difficult to understand this, or how an 'amicable' separation spirals so badly out of control.

But Nicole's initial mistake is being persuaded to hire a high-powered lawyer (Dern, splendidly hateful), who digs all the dirt possible to obtain full custody of their eight-year-old son (Robertson).

Driver is forced to hire an (ineffectual) lawyer of his own (Alda) and we can only share his bewilderment as he is then compelled to bring in a (very expensive) replacement (Liotta). The escalation and frenzied shouting matches that result don't always ring true, especially with characters it's hard to care about, who have probably been too critical of each other from the start.

There are very faint echoes of A Star is Born in all this, and indeed we half expect poor Charlie to end it all by walking into the LA ocean at the finish. Instead, Driver reveals a tremendous singing voice, as the film ends on a couple of songs. Go figure.

David Quinlan

USA 2019. UK Distributor: Netflix. Colour by FotoKem.
137 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 3.

Review date: 17 Dec 2019