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Noah Baumbach
Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Laura Dern
Writing Credits:
Noah Baumbach

A 10-year marriage ends and the former couple tries to work out conflicts.

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Descriptive Audio
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 137 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 7/21/2020

• Interview with Writer/Director Noah Baumbach
• Interviews with Actors Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Julie Hagerty and Ray Liotta
• Interviews with Writer/Director Noah Baumbach, Producer David Heyman, Editor Jennifer Lame, Production Designer Jade Healy and Costume Designer Mark Bridges
• “The Making of Marriage Story’ Video Journal
• Interview with Composer Randy Newman
• “Making a Scene with Noah Baumbach” Featurette
• Trailers
• Booklet


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Marriage Story: Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray] (2019)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 28, 2020)

Of the nine 2019 films nominated for Oscar’s Best Picture, Marriage Story provides arguably the smallest, most “reality-based” of the bunch. From noted writer/director Noah Baumbach, it brings a family drama.

We meet Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole Barber (Scarlett Johansson) as well as their eight-year-old son Henry (Azhy Robertson). Charlie directs theater in New York, and Nicole – a former teen star – acts in his latest production.

After a decade together, Charlie and Nicole deal with relationship issues, so they see a mediator (Robert Smigel). This doesn’t go well, as the sessions actually drive the two farther from each other.

With no real reconciliation on the horizon, Charlie and Nicole decide to split up, but they find an amicable breakup difficult to achieve. They attempt to work through their differences, all while they also try to do what works best for young Henry.

As noted, Story enjoyed a Best Picture nomination, and it got five other nods as well. Baumbach received one for his screenplay, and Randy Newman got another for his score.

The other three went to actors, as both Johansson and Driver earned nominations in the lead category. As Nicole’s attorney, Laura Dern received a supporting nod, and she became the only participant to win.

It makes sense that half of Story’s Oscar noms went toward the performers, as this seems like the kind of movie that lives or dies with its actors. That shouldn’t be a slam on Baumbach’s screenplay, of course, as it clearly plays a major role in the film’s potential.

However, given the tale’s introspective scope and tight character focus, the actors become essential. We don’t have action scenes or bawdy comedy to save the project, so the performers can redeem or sink the film.

We find a terrific cast, and all bring fine work here. No false notes appear, as the actors manage to keep their roles honest and believable.

It helps that Baumbach avoids contrived melodrama. Take a scene in which the Charlie/Nicole relationship hits it argumentative nadir and the two spew real venom at each other.

This sequence starts as amicable and goes downhill from there. A less talented filmmaker would telegraph the increasing intensity, but Baumbach allows matters to evolve in an organic way, a factor that makes the bitterness and anger all the more impactful and shocking.

Though Story comes with the potential to offer nothing more than wrenching drama. Baumbach drops more than a little comedy into the proceedings. He likes to poke fun at show business, and some other amusing moments occur as well.

These also come across as well-integrated and natural. While the comedy comes with the potential to feel forced, these mpments blend nicely and ensure that we don’t wind up stuck with 137 minutes of misery.

Story becomes only the third of Baumbach’s directorial efforts I’ve seen. I liked 2010’s Greenberg but found 2015’s While We’re Young to offer an unsatisfying mess.

Young sputtered because it lacked focus, as Baumbach mixed genres in a clumsy manner. Happily, he remains much more on-target here.

Surprisingly breezy and engaging, Story becomes probably Baumbach’s best movie. The tale goes by quickly and offers an involving look at marital woes.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus B+

Marriage Story appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. While not a visual showcase, the image appeared to replicate the source.

For the most part, sharpness felt positive. Occasional soft spots materialized, usually during interiors, but the movie usually boasted fairly positive delineation.

I saw no issues with jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge haloes failed to materialize. Outside of one quick nick, print flaws also remained absent, and with a good layer of grain, the transfer seemed to suffer from no noise reduction.

Colors went stylized, with a mix of trends. Amber/red dominated, but some green/blue also appeared along the way. The hues worked fine given artistic choices.

Blacks seemed deep and rich, while shadows offered fairly good delineation. This was a more than adequate presentation.

Given the movie’s character emphasis, its DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack lacked much ambition. Dialogue became the most dominant element, as that side of matters easily acted as the biggest component.

The movie’s score didn’t pop up with frequency, but it showed good spread across the various channels. Effects failed to do much, as they brought some involvement from subway or street scenes. Don’t expect much, though, as the soundscape remained restrained.

Audio quality worked fine. As noted, speech offered the most significant aspect of the track, and lines always felt concise and natural.

Music sounded lively and full, and effects sounded accurate and well-defined. Expect a low-key mix that suits a character drama.

We get a mix of extras here, and we start with an Interview with Writer/Director Noah Baumbach. During this 20-minute, 49-second piece, Baumbach discusses the project’s roots and development, story/character areas, cast and performances, sets and location, and cinematography.

It’s too bad Baumbach didn’t offer a full commentary, as this reel gives us nice insights. We learn a lot so it would’ve been nice to get more from the filmmaker.

Under The Players, we find a featurette that brings interviews with actors Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Julie Hagerty and Ray Liotta.

It spans 19 minutes, 36 seconds and provides thoughts about their roles, their performances, and working with Baumbach. We get some decent notes, but the program feels a little general.

The Filmmakers goes for 11 minutes, 51 seconds and includes comments from Baumbach, producer David Heyman, editor Jennifer Lame, production designer Jade Healy and costume designer Mark Bridges.

They go over the project’s path to the screen, costumes, editing, photography, set design and connected areas. Though a bit too short, this becomes a satisfying overview.

With The Making of Marriage Story, we locate a one-hour, 37-minutes, 41-second “video journal”. This focuses on footage from the shoot, with no interviews on display outside of a couple short on-the-set remarks.

We see raw shots of the production intercut with movie clips that let us compare the “work in progress” and the final result. I enjoy this kind of behind the scenes footage, so “Making” becomes a great look at the shoot.

Next comes an Interview with Composer Randy Newman. It lasts 11 minutes, 12 seconds and features Newman’s thoughts about his score.

We also get some notes from Baumbach and see elements of the recording. This turns into a nice overview of the musical choices.

In addition to two trailers, the disc brings Making a Scene with Noah Baumbach. It fills six minutes, 43 seconds as Baumbach dissects elements of a pivotal movie sequence. Baumbach brings fine insights during this short piece.

The package also includes a booklet. This provides credits, art and an essay from novelist Linn Ullmann. The booklet adds some value to the package.

Though I feared Marriage Story would devolve into little more than melodrama, the movie instead develops an involving, compelling character piece. It shows the nuances of divorce and mixes enough emotional flavors to work. The Blu-ray brings appropriate picture and audio along with a nice set of supplements. This ends up as a solid, introspective drama.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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