Title: Marriage Story (2019) Tagline: Where there's a love, there's a way. Genre: Drama Director: Noah Baumbach Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta, Merritt Wever, Mark O'Brien, Azhy Robertson, Brooke Bloom, Julie Hagerty, Matthew Shear, Kyle Bornheimer, Mickey Sumner, McKinley Belcher III, Wallace Shawn, Amir Talai Release Date: 2019-11-21 Runtime: 136 Plot: A stage director and his actor wife struggle through a grueling, coast-to-coast divorce that pushes them to their personal and creative extremes. MARRIAGE STORY. In Limited Release. Netflix Dec. 6th It's no secret that behind the benign title, Noah Baumbach's newest is really a 'Divorce Story' (I suppose it makes it more marketable and palatable on a marquee). After a somewhat rosy prologue we truly meet our New York City couple: Nicole (Scarlet Johannson), a 30 something Actress who started out in Hollywood. Charlie (Adam Driver), a 30 something theater Director who uses Nicole as his muse. They are in a therapy session trying to avert a Divorce, but, it's clear from the outset that it's inevitable. From that start point, the film (shot on 35mm) progresses on pretty much a steady plain - Arguments. Accusations. The woman moving out (back to L.A.). The hiring of Divorce attorneys. The attorneys argue. Etc. etc. Also, another predictable element: The cute kid (Henry played by Azhy Robertson) caught in the tug of war in between. Is "Henry" a nod to KRAMER VS. KRAMER's Justin Henry? (there's also a not so subtle nod to Ingmar Bergman's SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE tucked in) What keeps the film flowing is the fine performances of Johannson and Driver. I've usually found Driver to be too diffident to be really effective, but, here, he delivers his strongest acting yet. Johansson has always been appealing, and is more than fine here. The Supporting cast is also fine including Laura Dern, Alan Alda and Ray Liotta as the trio of lawyers involved in the case, Merrit Wever as Nicole's sister, and a pleasant surprise in seeing Julie Hagerty as her mom (didn't even recognize her as it's been years since I've seen her in anything even if she has been semi-active). Still, as effective as the ensemble is, and as punchy a script as Baumbach has written can be at times, the film's arc comes off as a bit flat. Other than flashbacks, we never get to really see the true dynamics of the marriage. The pair too often come off as self-absorbed narcissists (not uncommon in Baumbach's writing). They say they are mismatched, but are they really? It wouldn't be a stretch to think that some viewers will say that they 'deserve each other'. The principle argument seems to be over whether they should base in L.A. or New York, rather than something catastrophically wrong in their relationship. Now, it's also no secret that Baumbach has based his screenplay partly on his own divorce from Actress Jennifer Jason Leigh. That very public split also involved Baumbach's affair (and now full relationship) with actress Greta Gerwig (there's even a nod to her Directing nomination). But, MARRIAGE STORY softens that critical detail, and that's unfortunate. Not because a filmmaker should air their dirty laundry on screen*, but, because with that crucial event (or something akin), the story seems not only incomplete but it also makes the couple seem even more selfish. To substitute, Baumbach has included a knock down drag out argument between the pair where they vent and vent and vent. Like much of the movie, it's well acted, but, still has a certain hollowness at its core. MARRIAGE STORY is a rare adult film in a sea of lite entertainment. The acting is extremely good, and worth seeing for it. But, they are let down by the less than candid characters. * See Woody Allen's HUSBANDS AND WIVES for a more honest take.