Directed by: Noah Baumbach
Written by: Noah Baumbach
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Ray Liotta, Alan Alda
Reviewed by: Brad Williamson
Simply put, this is a misleading title. A better representation would have been, “A Divorce Story.”
The plot is very simplistic despite the long runtime: parents get divorce, fight over kid, fight each other, and lives are changed. That’s it. Both lead characters are extremely hateable, and the kid isn’t easy to like either. I think this is where the film falls apart for me. With such a single-minded plot, it’s vital to connect with the characters, which is difficult here. At moments it seems they’re supposed to be good, but their actions are always despicable, and by the end it seems as if the child (who, in a movie like this needs to be great, and is instead lame and forgettable) would be better off in foster care.
The acting was good but far from anyone’s best performance. The film was so melodramatic that there’s not much more to describe from the movie other than acting performances: there are no great set pieces, make-up, or costumes, no special music, and the writing is bland. I felt myself thinking on several occasions that it could have been a masterpiece if it had been Meryl Streep and Daniel Day Lewis portraying an older couple’s marriage tragically falling apart instead of a younger marriage exploding.
The film does seem on the verge of something, though, the way it almost makes you want to like these bad people–or hate these good people–but something is lacking in this relationship with its characters. Whether it’s their insincerity or flip-flopping or juvenile fighting, I don’t know, but by the conclusion I hated everyone and didn’t care what happened.
Still, it does have its moments and does ask some big questions, so credit goes to those aspects. Overall it’s worth watching, but it doesn’t warrant the praise and accolades it has been accruing leading up to awards season. Should it win several awards, it will be seen as unworthy five years down the road.