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Review of 'Marriage Story'
The way in which the characters in Noah Baumbach's films perform the simple communicative act to try to make themselves understood by each other involves a catastrophism entertaining (for run over), nice (by real) and painful (for extremely real). This was the number one ingredient in his earlier work from two years ago, The Meyerowitz stories, a film in which we could well have continued listening to parliaments and self-absorbed counter-replies between Hoffmann, Stiller y Sandler for ten more hours without the film's magnetism having suffered in the least. Therefore, the idea of experimenting with the same formula in a plot of bedroom fights between two beautiful young men (Scarlett Johansson y A) with an eight-year-old son in common was, from the outset, very promising.
The first scam (the one with the title of the movie, marriage story) is well evident after the conclusion of its formidable first scene. Although it could be argued that Baumbach has chosen to explain through rubble the composition of what in happy times was a happy wall, the strictly chronological narration confirms that we are dealing with the story of a divorce. This scam is unimportant, but it is a striking half-trap, especially if one goes to the cinema only attracted by the poster and/or the title of the film. With the trailer, things change:
The second con (based on the premise that we will witness an equal narrative between two opposing parties) does have a little more pedigree, and it arrives halfway through the film, when the director chooses to take sides and assign in a veiled way who is "the winner" and who is "the loser" (lawyer terminology very present and that helps in the constant dehumanization of the marital separation process, very Intolerable cruelty of the great Coens). If we ignore this slight dissonance between what was announced we would see and what we ended up seeing, Marriage Story It is presented as a powerful mix of bitterness and stark realism that is difficult to see and process.
Baumbach stretches the dialogues without fear of being heavy. The scenes are meticulous, they are taken care of with extreme care and crimped with perfection. The peculiar idiosyncrasy of marriage (determined to normalize the separation) leaves everything lost in rough and sharp moments. Pearls of life that no longer have any use and that reveal the twilight of a status quo that announces his farewell without there being anything that can be done about it (beyond pitying the silence with which the cataclysm occurs among the now unknown).
The prevailing atmosphere is reminiscent of the masterful The Square (gold palm at Cannes 2017) for the discomfort of knowing that a civilized species is known when words abandon it; when verbal communication becomes futile and unarmed, leaving everything lost to memory and human pathos.
'Marriage story': Anatomy of the oddities of the human race
Red eyes, tangled hair, limbs out of place, extra skin, oozing pores and the occasional blood duct that escapes. Bodies as unstable as emotions. Punches and tears of their own volition. The use of such yellow photography (and the outlandish miracle of seeing a being as toweringly attractive as Scarlett Johansson in a condition bordering on ugliness) accentuate the sense of seeing not two troubled people, but two autonomous human organisms unable to run their brains as well as they would like.
The protagonists of Marriage Story they are so adrift that the problem is not only that they are not able to make themselves understood between them: it is that they are not able to understand each other even with their own bodies. At times it seems like an extraterrestrial study on the oddities of the human race.
If this film had come out in the eighties, the question would revolve around WHAT (is going to happen). Here only the HOW matters: the exposition of the reasons that prevent these two people from living together on the same frequency is crystal clear and leaves no room for hope. The viewer, far from choosing which of the two to opt for, can only wander and complain about the obtuse nature that makes up the mechanisms of which life itself is made. Discarded the arrangement, the viewer only has to empathize with the child and pray that his parents' torment presents as few potholes as possible. It's a very sad movie, and this is a very good thing, because to be sad is to be alive.
Original title: Marriage story
Duration: 136 min
Country: United States
Address: Noah Baumbach
Script: Noah Baumbach
Music: Randy Newman
Photograph: Robbie Ryan