This portrait of a marriage breaking up and a family staying together draws the rapid tangling and gradual untangling of impetuosity, resentment, and abiding love between a married couple (actor Nicole and playwright Charlie) negotiating their divorce and the custody of their son.
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Baumbach’s melancholic opus posits that relationships end the moment they start; wants become burdens the moment they are fulfilled; to truly know someone is to eventually hate them, and love will never get our full faith or respect. By making divorce the focus of his film, Baumbach teaches us to care more about what it takes to separate than what it takes to be together.
The next morning I had a post-Marriage Story hangover and I hated myself for liking it. I swore I’d never go see another movie about some bougie fools and their inconsequential divorce and their real love, which is Stephen Sondheim.
Speculation that aspects of Marriage Story are autobiographical to Baumbach’s split with Jennifer Jason Leigh is unavoidable, and yet that’s not what gives the movie its power. Here, instead of cultivating his typical hyperarticulate cruelty, Baumbach’s made a movie that is, in every way, about love—and specifically how it’s only love that can make you truly mean.