The first thing to know about Netflix's "Marriage Story" is that it isn't about marriage at all – it's about divorce.
The film, written and directed by Noah Baumbach, tells the story of Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson), a director and an actor, respectively. After 10 years and a child together, they're divorcing – and the audience never knows them as the happy couple they, hypothetically, once were.
The plot is simple, which may be part of the reason the conversation around "Marriage Story" has been largely about its performances. In fact, the film is nominated for six Academy Awards total and half of them are for acting (Best Actress for Johansson, Best Actor for Driver and Best Supporting Actress for Laura Dern).
"Marriage Story" often feels like theatre and not just because Charlie and Nicole are theatre people. It's to-the-point and well-structured. It features soft fade-outs that end scenes like a curtain falling on a stage. And many of the film's most talked-about scenes feel like Johansson and Driver are alone on a stage, even when they're side-by-side. Their performances are convincing, arguably worthy of their nominations, but sometimes it feels like they're acting in the wrong medium. (Dern, on the other hand, would be overacting regardless of the medium. If anyone in this film deserved a supporting nomination, it was Alan Alda).
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However, the disjointed feeling of Johansson and Driver's performances may be intentional on Baumbach's part. Nicole and Charlie are people who (allegedly) once loved each other and no longer do. They are interested in what's best for themselves, and so it doesn't ultimately matter what the other says – they might as well be talking to themselves.
"Marriage Story" isn't a perfect movie but it's a fairly good one. It shouldn't win Best Picture, but it at least makes sense how it wound up on the list.
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Now, let's break down the big questions:
Who might enjoy "Marriage Story"?
Fans of Driver and Johansson. People who like movies that feel like plays. People who enjoy dialogue-heavy movies. People who feel strongly that either New York or Los Angeles is the superior city.
What else is it nominated for?
Best Actress (Johansson), Actor (Driver), Supporting Actress (Dern), Original Screenplay (Baumbach) and Original Score.
What's the likelihood it will win "Best Picture"?
Not likely. Nothing is impossible but "Marriage Story" isn't one of the top contenders for the prize. The fact that it's predominantly nominated for acting awards indicates the Academy thinks it's well-acted but probably not a Best Picture winner. Johansson, however, is bound to take home one of the two statues she's up for (she's also nominated for Supporting Actress for "Jojo Rabbit"). It's likely like she'll leave with the Oscar for this one.
Ahead of the 92nd annual Academy Awards, KVUE's Britny Eubank is reviewing all of the Oscars' "Best Picture" nominees. If you'd like to read more of her thoughts on all sorts of movies, she writes about them every month. And don't forget to catch the Oscars on KVUE on Sunday, Feb. 9 at 7 p.m.
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