MATTHEW LIEDKE ON FILM: 'Marriage Story' takes viewers on a dramatic journey through the gauntlet of divorce

Liedke On Film logo
We are part of The Trust Project.

It's Black Widow vs. Kylo Ren in this "Star Wars"/"Marvel" crossover.

Actually Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver play different characters in this drama written and directed by Noah Baumbach. However, it's still quite intense.

Driver plays Charlie in "Marriage Story," while Johansson portrays Nicole. The two are a married couple in New York City, where they work at a theater company. Charlie is the company's owner, operator and director, while Nicole is an actress on stage. While their professional life has become successful, though, their marriage has fallen apart.

Because of where their relationship is at, the two decide to get a divorce. While they initially want to have a peaceful mediation through the process, though, it eventually becomes a strenuous saga as aspects like custody of their child Henry and Nicole's decision to move to Los Angeles are brought into the mix by lawyers.

"Marriage Story" is a movie that wears its heart on its sleeve. The passionate, emotional and at times fierce moments that come from a crumbling relationship come to light here in very raw forms, and it makes for some great drama.


The story does take somewhat of a backseat to the performances in this picture. Not that the movie's story is poor, it's just that the acting is the real star. "Marriage Story" is an actors' vehicle, so much so that this could very much work as a stage play.

As a movie all about performances, it's really great that this film offers such tremendous performances. Driver and Johansson are already earning plenty of nominations for their work, and it's so well deserved.

The two are on fire here. I thought Johansson gave her best recent performance in "Jojo Rabbit," but this work of hers is just as good. Johansson portrays Nicole as a woman who's torn over a lot of things in her life and it shows.

Driver, meanwhile, is brilliant as Charlie, very well portraying a father fighting for his child in a situation that's starting to spiral.

There's an especially great scene where Charlie and Nicole have a visit where they try to be kind and work things out, but it turns into a complete argument. This is the movie's highlight and the acting featured is award worthy.

Where the film stumbles a bit is in some of its tonal shifts and characters. For example, there's a sequence where an evaluator played by Martha Kelly visits Charlie and Henry to observe how good of a father Charlie is, and it's played with almost a bit too much humor. In other sequences, Laura Dern plays a lawyer named Nora Fanshaw and she comes across as a bit over-the-top, almost like a caricature.

Overall, though, "Marriage Story" has strong characters, phenomenal performances and a story that takes audiences through the difficulties of divorce in convincing ways. 4.25 out of 5.

For more opinions on movies and the film industry, visit

Related Topics: MOVIES
What to read next
Franz Schubert’s song cycle “Winterreise” – or “Winter Journey” – can be considered a bucket list item for piano and voice performers, and two Bemidji State music professors have recently crossed it off their own lists.
Watermark Art Center will host an open house reception for the "Umbrellas of Unity" exhibit from 5 to 7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 19, at Watermark, 505 Bemidji Ave. N.
The 35th season of the Bemidji Area Church Musicians Summer Recital Series continues at noon on Wednesday, Aug. 17, at Calvary Lutheran Church, 2508 Washington Ave. SE.
Friends of Lake Bemidji State Park will host Music Under The Pines on Saturdays and Sundays throughout August.