Marriage Story Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

The usual, in general, the story. Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) was born and raised in Los Angeles, became an actress, played a prominent role in a youth comedy. At some point, she came to audition in New York and met a promising avant-garde director Charlie (Adam Driver). Love arose between them, they began to meet, Nicole moved to New York and began to play in Charlie’s productions. A couple of years later, Nicole had a child, Henry (Ezhi Robertson).

And after eight years, Nicole realized that if she did not change her life, she would be completely lost as a person and as an actress. Charlie is becoming more and more famous, his performance can be taken to Broadway, he can be presented with a very solid “genius award”, and Nicole has turned from a television star into a not very noticeable actress of the New York avant-garde. In their family, everything is subordinated to the interests of Charlie, and what Nicole herself needs is somehow plainly not considered.

In the end, Nicole got a new chance: she was invited to Los Angeles to star in a promising series. At the same time, it seems to be believed that Nicole and Henry will go to Los Angeles, star in the series and return to Charlie in New York, but Nicole understands that she is not going to return to any New York.

Initially, Charlie and Nicole seem to agree that they will not turn to lawyers during a divorce and will quietly and peacefully decide between themselves – in fact, they have nothing special to share, except for custody of their son – but Nicole quickly realizes that he and Charlie it is unlikely that it will be possible to agree, therefore, he turns to the well-known divorce specialist lawyer Nora Fanshaw (Laura Dern).

Well, Charlie has no choice but to look for another lawyer.


This is quite a personal story for screenwriter and director Noah Baumbach: he lives and works in New York, was married to actress Jennifer Jason Leigh, who is almost eight years older than him, and they have a common son with Jennifer. At some point, their marriage broke up – Noah went to actress and screenwriter Greta Gerwig – and Baumbach and Lee went through a painful divorce.

Noah wrote the script for this film himself: he always writes scripts for the films he directs. (However, sometimes his wife also joins him in this lesson: he wrote the script for his film with Jennifer Jason Leigh and wrote several scripts with Greta Gerwig.)

Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver were originally planned for the lead roles, and these actors gave their advice to Baumback about certain plot moves in the film.

By the way, interestingly, the theme of divorce in art began to appear relatively recently – in fact, towards the end of the last century. For example, Shakespeare did not have any divorces: the same Othello, when he began to suspect Desdemona of infidelity, did not turn to lawyers, as you know.

At different times, different peoples practiced different ways of parting, but this never came from a woman. A man could decide to dissolve the marriage, after which his wife could be killed, exiled to a monastery, or simply driven out of the house on all four sides. And with whom the children would remain, the husband decided: if among the children there was a son, an heir, then, of course, he remained with his father, and the unfortunate mother could never see him again.

In the same Spain, back in the early seventies of the last century (this was quite recently), a woman could not leave her husband under any circumstances. However, the man also could not officially divorce, but he could still leave the family and live, for example, with his mistress. The wife was deprived of such an opportunity by definition, she could not go to work without the consent of her husband.

However, times, thank God, changed, and in the end, even the most fierce house-building realized that a woman is also a person and should have the same rights as a man, as a result of which such a, in general, necessary and useful phenomenon appeared. like a divorce, and books and films began to be devoted to this topic.

There are hundreds of films that touch on this subject, from masterpieces such as Bergman’s “Scenes from a Married Life” (Baumback’s film has a kind of hello to this picture in the form of a poster hanging on the wall) and Robert Benton’s “Kramer vs. Kramer” (five Oscars). 1980, including the main one), to cute little things like Rob Reiner’s The Story of Us. (Also in this case, it is appropriate to recall the Soviet film “Do not part with your loved ones” by Pavel Arsenov, in which the main couple of Soviet cinema, Irina Alferova and Alexander Abdulov, played.)

Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story is not a masterpiece at all, despite a bunch of Oscar nominations (only one of them won – “Best Supporting Actress” for Laura Dern), but the film is quite worthy, in terms of drama, staging and acting In the game, of course, he leaves pictures like “The Story of Us” noticeably behind, but he is also very far from the level of “Kramer vs. Kramer”.

All this is filmed quite simply and artlessly: despite the fact that the film clearly focuses on the confrontation between New York and Los Angeles (in fact, Charlie is the personification of a somewhat snobbish bohemian New York, and Nicole is a symbol of cheerful California with its Hollywood and cinematic fast food), neither New York nor Los Angeles are independent participants in the picture. (By the way, Noah Baumbach is, unsurprisingly, a big fan of Woody Allen, who often has New York City and Central Park in particular as an important part of his films.)

There are no sharp plot twists here either, the plot is built linearly, and everything, in general, is expected: Nicole re-creates her life, she is not going to return to New York, Charlie’s life is inextricably linked with New York, but he is very is attached to the child and is horrified at the fact that he is effectively deprived of the opportunity to communicate with Henry.

Instead of somehow solving the problem with each other, Nicole turns to a seasoned lawyer, Charlie is forced to turn to a shark lawyer, well, these predators habitually begin to butcher the opposite side – in the end, that’s what they get paid wild money for .

The director (who is also a screenwriter) carefully examines this situation, and, to his credit, it must be said that he does not take sides, although it seems that Charlie is partially written off from him. However, Nicole does not look like a negative character here at all – not at all, on the contrary, from everything that we see in the picture, we can conclude that she is the victim. And for her, divorce and moving to Los Angeles were the only chance to save herself as a person, and not completely get lost in the shadow of a popular New York director.

The acting in the film is truly amazing. Adam Driver is a good actor, and here he also revealed himself from a somewhat unexpected side: in all the previous three films in which I saw him (Logan’s Luck, Black Klansman and The Man Who Killed Don Quixote), Adam played people almost unemotional. Here is a completely different character who is capable of strong emotions, and Adam in this role looked very convincing.

I never considered Scarlett Johansson a good actress – apparently because most directors mainly exploited her external data and even in Woody Allen she was just “another blonde”, but just recently she struck me with an excellent role in “Rabbit” Jojo”, and now – a great role in this film! Nicole is very natural, lively, natural and emotional. She goes through some very painful breakups, but she knows what she’s doing and has no other option.

The on-screen couple of Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson turned out just great, they were both nominated for the main acting Oscars, but the awards expectedly went to Joaquin Phoenix and Renee Zellweger.

The secondary characters in the film are also very, very good. Laura Dern, as I said, won an Oscar for best supporting actress, and rightly so: her lawyer Nora is simply a masterpiece, especially in the episode in which she explains to Nicole that society is ready to forgive men and is not ready to forgive women, and at the same time Nora draws parallels with the Mother of God – it was wonderful!

Ray Liotta also fired up as the cynical lawyer: he only had two episodes there, but he was incredibly good in both.

Eighty-four-year-old Alan Alda, the legendary Hawkeye from Mash’s Bloody Service, did a great job as the somewhat goofy lawyer Bert Spitz, whom Charlie turns to out of desperation. Bert not only does not help, but also “does a little harm”, but at the same time, like other lawyers, he does not hesitate to take tens of thousands of dollars for his services.

Julie Hagerty played the role of Nicole’s merry mother (fans of the films “Airplane” and “Airplane 2” know this actress very well), and Merritt Weaver appeared in a small role there (just recently I wrote about this actress in a review of the series “Incredible ”) – there was a very funny episode with her.

Interestingly, the picture “Marriage Story” in America and the UK (a film co-produced by these two countries) aroused much more interest than in Europe. At the Venice Film Festival, the picture had only one nomination (albeit for the Golden Lion) and, one might say, it was ignored. But for the British BAFTA award – four nominations and one victory (also Laura Dern) and for the Oscar – five nominations, including the best film, and one victory.

But this is quite understandable: despite the quite universal theme of the painfulness of divorce, there is a lot of purely American specificity here. The opposition of Los Angeles and New York, American laws regarding divorce, the peculiarities of regulating divorces in California (this is a separate story altogether), the peculiarities of the work of American animal lawyers – of course, this is closer to Americans …

I deliberately did not write a review immediately after watching the film – I wanted the impressions to subside a little.

Yes, the acting is excellent, it’s just five points here! But I still had certain complaints about the plot and the production, which I wanted to understand – purely for myself.

I already wrote about the plot: it is simple and completely linear. This is not that bad, but if you answer the question of what I learned new and informative from this film, then you can answer clearly – nothing. What should the heroes of this picture themselves understand? The fact that you don’t need to fall into the clutches of American lawyers, with whom, as in that joke about two cowboys who “it seems to me that you and I ate shit for free”, you eat all this with a full spoon, but not for free, and for the huge money that could be spent on the education of his son? Yes, this seems to be common knowledge, also to me, a revelation.

That Charlie in family life should have paid more attention to what oppresses and worries Nicole? Yes, I beg you. Any person in marriage behaves as he sees fit to behave. His behavior depends on his own character and habits and on what kind of relationship he has with his partner. If something globally does not suit you in a partner, then it is impossible to change it: you either just have to live with it, or get divorced. Moreover, when irreconcilable contradictions become completely obvious, one should not try to glue a broken cup, but get divorced as soon as possible, because it will have to be glued “from shit and sticks” and nothing good will come of it. (I have some experience in all this, I have been divorced twice, and I even have a donated honorary wrench.)

From the claims to the production … The picture is declared as a drama and, in general, was staged as a drama: the pre-final extremely dramatic scene of the final trial between Nicole and Charlie, brilliantly played by both actors – it does not fit into the usual tragicomedy at all.

Nevertheless, the style here is still not a drama, but rather, a drama with elements of a tragicomedy, where the incendiary mother Nicole and her friend Casey looked quite good. The lawyers looked slightly parodic, but this also fit into the genre framework.

But the scene of a visit by a special inspector to Charlie’s house, which checked the conditions of the boy’s detention with his father, left me in great bewilderment. In my opinion, she definitely did not stick to this picture and was completely superfluous. However, in one review it was called the best scene in the picture – apparently, who cares.

What is the result? Excellent acting, and the entire cast. (The BAFTA nomination for Best Casting was for good reason.) Good production, but not without some flaws. A good script, but also not without certain flaws.

The film is good, it is quite worthy of viewing, but I call such pictures “a film of one year”. There was a sensation, five nominations for an Oscar, an Oscar won, and in a couple of years no one will remember him. It will go through the category “Isn’t this the picture where it turned out that Scarlett Johansson can act at all and that Adam Driver is not only a gloomy dude from Star Wars?”.

Marriage Story movie meaning


Noah Baumbach


Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta, Julie Hagerty, Merritt Weaver, Julia Greer, Ezhi Robertson, Wallace Shawn

Tragicomedy, UK-USA, 2019, 137 min.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top