TIFF Review: 'Marriage Story' Is a Cathartic Divorce Story Directed by Noah Baumbach

Starring Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Ray Liotta, Azhy Robertson, Wallace Shawn, Merritt Wever, Julie Hagerty
TIFF Review: 'Marriage Story' Is a Cathartic Divorce Story Directed by Noah Baumbach
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Marriage Story isn't a marriage story. It's a divorce story, and it poignantly reveals the ways that two people who used to love one another can end up at each other's throats.
 
Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) are a power couple within New York's theatre scene, but they've decided to bring their relationship to a seemingly amicable end. Both of them are likeable, if a bit flawed; Charlie is a patient, friendly director who tends to put his own needs above those of others, while Nicole is a talented actor who becomes embittered as she realizes she has ended up in her husband's shadow. They don't have much money, so they see a mediator to help work out the custody arrangement for their eight-year-old son Henry (Azhy Robertson).
 
What begins as a dispute over whether to keep Henry in New York or move to Los Angeles quickly escalates once lawyers get involved: Nora (Laura Dern) and Jay (Ray Liotta) are cutthroat and charismatic, while Bert (Alan Alda), a third lawyer, is a mild-mannered pushover. The couple's squabbles are alternately heartbreaking and hilarious, as one dispute spirals into another and eventually turns into an all-out war. Noah Baumbach imbues the script with a dry wit and compassionate warmth; no matter how ugly the squabbles get, nobody comes across as the bad guy, and Marriage Story never loses its sense of humour.
 
It's an arduous journey that's sometimes difficult to watch, but it provides genuine catharsis. Audiences will walk away with a couple of lessons. The first: when you're breaking up, try to remember the good things about your ex that brought the two of you together in the first place. The second: fuck divorce attorneys. (Netflix)