‘Marriage Story’ reviews: Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson are ‘outstanding’ in ‘utterly compelling’ Netflix drama

Marriage Story” has been making waves on the fall film festival circuit, but it finally opened in theaters on November 6 in advance of its streaming premiere on December 6. So are critics onboard for this domestic drama from writer-director Noah Baumbach?

In a word, yes. With a MetaCritic score of 95, it’s tied with “Parasite” as the highest-rated film of the year based on reviews from 32 critics as of this writing, all of them positive and a whopping 15 of which are rated a perfect 100 on the review aggregator. The enthusiasm is just as strong on Rotten Tomatoes, which categorizes reviews simply as pass or fail. There it’s rated 98% fresh based on 125 reviews counted, of which only three are classified as rotten. The RT critics’ consensus summarizes the reviews by saying, “Observing a splintering union with compassion and expansive grace, the powerfully acted ‘Marriage Story’ ranks among writer-director Noah Baumbach’s best works.”

Baumbach tells a story reminiscent of his own divorce from Jennifer Jason Leigh. This fictionalized account stars Adam Driver as a New York theater director and Scarlett Johansson as his wife, an actress who is less happy with their relationship, careers and living arrangements than he realizes. Their performances are being described as “outstanding,” “stripped raw.” Their scenes together are “among the film’s most heartbreaking,” but when they’re apart “you really get a sense of how powerfully they’re performing.” All the while the writer-director “finds the perfect blend of humor, humanity, heart and yes, suffering” for this “harrowingly three-dimensional portrait of divorce.” It “may just be the best war movie of the year.”

But will it win Oscars? Baumbach is a previous nominee for writing “The Squid and the Whale” (2005). Driver just earned his first bid this past year for his supporting role in “BlacKkKlansman.” And Johansson is still waiting for her first nom in a career that has ranged from “Lost in Translation” to Marvel’s “Avengers.” We may see all three of them make the academy’s shortlist for this effort. Check out some of the reviews below, and join the discussion on this and more with your fellow movie fans in our forums.

Alissa Wilkinson (Vox): “Driver and Johansson’s scenes together are among the film’s most heartbreaking; that moment when someone says something you know they can never take back is gutting. But it’s in their individual scenes that you can really get a sense of how powerfully they’re performing, with ripples of emotion and energy revealing conflicts going on beneath the words they’re still just finding to narrate and re-narrate their lives.”

Jessica Kiang (The Playlist): “It’s not all pain and suffering in Baumbach’s extremely personal, autobiographic, emotionally bruising, ‘Marriage Story’ … Baumbach finds the perfect blend of humor, humanity, heart and yes, suffering, to create a utterly compelling, harrowingly three-dimensional portrait of divorce … Baumbach pulls no punches, and exhumes a personal calamity, most people wouldn’t have the stomach to sift through again.”

Fionnuala Halligan (Screen Daily): “‘Marriage Story’ can be a tough watch, thanks to outstanding, stripped-raw performances by leads Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson and some excellent support … With a sharp, intelligent script and Baumbach’s usual visual timidity, this is a very particular film, set for awards attention for its performances and a global viewership through Netflix.”

Sara Stewart (New York Post): “Director Noah Baumbach’s latest may just be the best war movie of the year … ‘Marriage Story’ attempts to give voice to both members of this crumbling union, even if its director ultimately sides with, you know, himself … There may be two sides to every story, but this one never leaves too much doubt about which side you’re meant to favor. Still, Baumbach ultimately delivers an incisive portrait of one of life’s toughest undertakings.”

Be sure to make your Oscar nominee predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their films and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before nominees are announced on January 13. And join in the fun debate over the 2020 Academy Awards taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our film forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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