The Case for Best Picture: Marriage Story

Written by Alison Traynor

The Oscars have always provided an intriguing lens through which an era’s culture can be examined, and this year’s Best Feature contenders are no exception. Joker’s nomination, for example, has plenty to say about contemporary Western concerns, for it demonstrates that a lack of mental health resources is an increasingly serious problem within our society. In a similar vein, Jojo Rabbit’s inclusion purports the notion that fascism is no longer an acceptable lifestyle choice, which is a timely comment considering that the infuriating buzz of Trumpian nonsense seems to assault our ears constantly nowadays. Likewise, Little Women’s nod indicates a growing penchant for feminist thought, as Gerwig took many liberties with the original text, transforming the outmoded tale into an all-encompassing celebration of female talent.

Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson star in Marriage Story.

It is evident that the aforementioned films, alongside various other nominees, grapple with extremely ambitious topics. However, one particular film on the list diverges from its cinematic peers in a significant way: Marriage Story. I have heard many movie buffs argue that Noah Baumbach’s recent drama is not as sophisticated or complex as its cohorts in the Best Feature category. In fact, I am willing to concede that this may be true, albeit on a strictly superficial level. However, this film has a vital quality that the other nominees do not. At the risk of sounding like an Ikea advert, it deals with the meaningful everyday, and that is what makes it so special. I wish that more filmmakers would embrace the minutiae of so-called ordinary lives, because generally, if viewed from the right angle, they have the power to say things that are actually quite extraordinary.

Biases, emotions, and subjective opinions will always get in the way of our objectivity, and that is what being human is all about.

Marriage Story narrates the tale of Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) and Charlie (Adam Driver), a couple who are struggling to come to terms with their impending divorce. Upon the film’s release, heated debate was sparked on social media, with Twitter users arguing about whether the relationship’s breakdown was the fault of Nicole or Charlie. Yet, these fans who are battling it out are actually missing the point entirely, which is that life is not black and white. In fact, it exists in so many different shades of grey that we will never know whether we are seeing it as it really is. Biases, emotions, and subjective opinions will always get in the way of our objectivity, and that is what being human is all about. This film explores that sentiment in a profound and affecting way.

The oft-parodied, oft-celebrated fight scene from Marriage Story.

Overall, the film is beautiful and heartbreaking and uncomfortable and infuriating, and that it what makes it so engaging, because all of these things are what life is made of. Its impact is heightened by the incredible performances of the two leads, and as well as the Golden Globe-winning performance of the ever-charming Laura Dern, who plays Nicole’s lawyer. There is a particularly poignant scene towards the end of the film (you’ll know what I’m talking about when you watch it) which marks Marriage Story as one of the greatest performances of the ridiculously prolific Adam Driver’s career. The film is unmissable.

The 92nd Academy Awards will take place this coming Sunday 9th of February.

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