I don’t think it’s so simple as me not being into the subject matter. I did like Wildlife last year, another movie about a heterosexual couple with a son who are getting divorced. Well, I liked it alright. Okay it probably partly is the subject matter. But I think more than anything it’s just that after three of his, I’ve still never managed to click with a Noah Baumbach movie. And at this point I’m going to propose we just peaceably go our separate ways. I certainly don’t think he’s like, bankrupt as an artist or anything, I don’t think he makes films that are objectively bad, just films that don’t have the key to unlock my stores of investment. Scenes that others find really moving, I am unmoved by. Whereas Joanna Hogg’s insufferable characters captivate me, his I merely find tiring. If your-mileage-may-vary, I’m just never getting up to speed with these.
I mean I’ll be the first to tell you that there were three lines in Marriage Story so funny I paused the Netflix player so I could write them down while laughing. Still, Baumbach’s sense of humor just doesn’t land quite right for me on the whole. I think I expect the people in the scene to also find these things funny, maybe? It’s like the jokes feel a bit more written than lived, I guess, but then again I don’t know if that’s it, can’t really put my finger on it. Two of the jokes were Scarlett Johannson’s, whom I thought delivered by far the best performance in this, she was really really great. When she starts crying as soon as she walks around the corner, that long monologue she has when she first meets her lawyer that she delivers in a delightfully weird way, her Acting we see in Charlie’s (terrible looking) New York plays and her (terrible looking) Hollywood sci-fi show. I thought Adam Driver was just fine; I always think Adam Driver is just fine. I know he really appeals to some, but whatever magic he holds for them misses me. Noah Baumbach loves him.
Oddly, I found the vaunted Laura Dern performance in this to be a pretty basic near-caricature of a glamorous type of LA divorce lawyer, a reaction that mildly surprised me. Wait, was that it? I thought after she delivered a short spiel about mothers, that’s the Oscar-winning speech? Same too with the big fight that Netflix unwisely released as a context-free clip of histrionics, same too with the Company song that was happily reported from the Toronto film festival and what I’d been honestly joking was my number one reason to watch this movie—each time, with mild surprise: that was it?
But you know how it is, sometimes people just aren’t the right fit, and it’s not really anyone’s fault more than the other. I believe Noah Baumbach and I can split amicably.