Review of Marriage Story (2019)

Moving picture, 137 minutes

Seen in 2020.


Almost as good as Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale (2005). Driver and a lot of the supporting cast are excellent, especially Julie Hagerty’s “G-Ma” (Sandra) and Alan Alda’s lawyer. Wallace Shawn as the long-winded bullshitter Frank is just annoying, part of the script’s broad caricature of NY vs. LA and theatre vs. film. In that caricature, almost everybody treats Nicole’s SF TV series like crap, which contributes to a general cynicism, especially since Charlie’s dismissal of the TV series is supposed to be a character flaw. His rendition of “Being Alive”, a Sondheim song from Company (1970), also doesn’t quite make sense, but it’s a tremendous piece of artistic larceny. In the end, when Henry reprises Nicole’s Scenes from a Marriage (1973) list from the opening, Baumbach sinks to sentimentality, but the drama is generally less weepy than I had been led to believe. As a big-name high-brow movie-industry love letter to theatre, it’s much better than Birdman (2014). The basic subject matter of growing apart over latent selfish misapprehensions and then getting stuck in a corrupt legal system that “rewards bad behaviour” is credible even if the main characters are a bland cultural and social elite.

moving picture fiction