What Is Marriage Story Even About?

Noah Baumbach is back on Netflix, with Adam Driver in tow once again.


The eternal bond of marriage is fleeting in Noah Baumbach’s latest film, Marriage Story, which will be released on Netflix after its world premiere at the 2019 Venice Film Festival. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson play Charlie and Nicole, an ostensibly perfect married couple whose relationship falls apart and—to promote the movie—Netflix has just released companion teaser trailers that tell the story from each character’s point of view.

In one, titled “What I Love About Charlie,” we get Nicole’s perspective, learning that Charlie “loves being a dad” and that “it’s almost annoying how much he likes it.” She also shares that he is sensitive, cries during movies, and dresses well (which, she notes, is “hard for a man”.) Meanwhile, Charlie appears in “What I Love About Nicole,” revealing that his wife is a good dancer, gives great presents, and plays well with the kids.

Each describes the other as “competitive,” and that must be true, because both trailers eventually reveal Nicole and Charlie sitting on opposite sides of divorce court. But this doesn’t seem to be your typical dark break up drama, à la Kramer vs. Kramer.

Baumbach described the rationale behind the trailers in a press release: “Marriage Story is a love story that reveals itself within the breakdown. With these companion trailers I wanted to show the relationship through the eyes of both characters. There are many sides to every story, and the movie embraces these different viewpoints in order to find the shared truth,” the director said.

Laura Dern, Ray Liotta, Merritt Wever, Alan Alda, and Wallace Shawn join the supporting cast, along with Baumbach favorites Matthew Shear (who previously starred alongside Greta Gerwig and Lola Kirke in Mistress America) and Mickey Sumner (who acted opposite Gerwig in Frances Ha).

The dueling trailers idea, while clever, isn’t entirely novel. Ned Benson’s The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, which stars Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy as a married couple, rolled out similar teasers . A major difference between the two films, however, is that The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby was actually split up into three separate films, titled Him, Her, and Them, with the first two screened concurrently at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival and the final combo film screening at Cannes in 2014 and telling one linear story. Marriage Story, meanwhile, seems to exist as a single film.

Marriage Story is neither Baumbach’s nor Driver’s first film for Netflix. Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories was released on the streaming service in 2017 (at a time when prestige filmmakers dropping movies on Netflix was still kind of a novel concept) and starred Driver alongside Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler as Dustin Hoffman’s three adult sons. Baumbach also cast Driver in Frances Ha and his 2014 couple’s dramedy While We’re Young. Marriage Story is Johansson’s first foray into the Baumbach mumblecoreverse, and the casting has yet to inspire the controversy accompanying some of her other recent choices.

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