Marriage Story Review

At last I have completed the list of the Best Picture nominees with the one I could have watched ages ago on Netflix. Fresh from watching Parasite, I got comfortable on the couch and watched Marriage Story. The movie stars Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver as a couple going through a divorce whilst trying to make sure their son is happy. 

There is only one place to start when talking about this film, and it’s with the previously mentioned performers. Scarlett Johansson was in the most commercially successful movie of all-time last year, and yet this is the role she should be remembered for. This is her best work, and she fully deserves the nomination she has received for it with the range of emotions she portrays in this film. She plays Nicole in such a real, believable way that you don’t see the actress and you’re invested in her and when she’s on screen you just want things to work out for her.

As for her co-star Adam Driver, it took me a few minutes to get over the Kylo Ren factor. Having only previously seen him as the Star Wars character, him popping up and immediately talking about what he loves about Nicole is jarring. At first it felt like an SNL sketch, and I was waiting for the “Gotcha” moment. It never comes. What happens is just like ScarJo as Nicole, Adam Driver disappears, and you just see his character Charlie (Great name).

If there is one scene this year that deserves an award for the sheer incredible acting and performances of those involved, it is in this movie. The argument that the two engage in is terrifyingly real. I’ve never been divorced, or married for that fact, but I have had arguments with people I love, and it’s one of the most difficult feelings we ever process. Things are said that you don’t mean because in that moment, just for a split second, you just want to hurt the other person. Somehow these actors manage to capture that sickening feeling and translate it into something on screen that you can feel happening. Writer Director Noah Baumbach wrote and directs a solid film, but their performances elevate it to the top tier.

Laura Dern in her role as ScarJo’s divorce attorney is as sharp as a pocketknife and is magnetic when she’s on screen, although it didn’t quite match the tone of the film all the time. One of the other lawyers in the film is played by Ray Liotta, and I found he stuck out like a sore thumb. He was just a bit too over the top and felt like a caricature of what his character was supposed to be.

In the courtroom scenes you a different side of divorce, where the lawyers are using every little piece of information they have to try and turn the case in their client’s favour. What I don’t recall seeing in most courtroom scenes is the pain on the faces of the people involved, and that is clear to see here.

What it made me feel, and think about, is that feeling of loving someone but knowing it isn’t meant to be. It’s a personal thing that may hit you differently depending on where you are in your life, but for me it came at an oddly profound time. It also made me think about my own parents’ divorce, and how I have never even given it a second thought. Then I think to the odd moments I remember of them interacting and how weirdly nice it was to see them get on, and that feeling is something Marriage Story managed to evoke in me in its final act.

Marriage Story is an engrossing film, and one that crosses a few different boundaries. It’s funny, its heart-breaking, it’s the reveal that Adam Driver can sing pretty well, and that alone should be enough to make you want to watch it. It’s on Netflix, so nobody has any excuse for this one, it should be on everyone’s lists.

Good: This might actually be two real people who happen to look like Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, their performances are just that good.

Bad: The Lawyers were a little too evil and conniving to believable in such a grounded story.

9/10 – Statue Worthy Film. 

 

JoJo Rabbit Review

Some films are funny. Some films make you laugh. Some films make you want to cry. Some films have powerful messages. Some films take all of that and combine it into one incredible experience. JoJo Rabbit was that film for me. 

I should preface this with the fact I am a fan of Taika Waititi’s style and comedy, and its satirical nature gets me laughing. With a film like What we do in the Shadows, Taika showed his raw talent for satire. JoJo Rabbit feels like an evolution of that film maker, and with age and experience comes the knowledge of when to use humour.

JoJo Rabbit, if you didn’t know, is a film about a ten year old member of the Hitler Youth, who is all in on the Nazi message, and has an imaginary best friend, who just happens to be Adolf Hitler himself, but through a ten year olds eyes. I won’t say more, as I really do think this film should be seen. I don’t want to risk numbing you to all the twists and emotions that play out through the film.

I must mention the cast, as I haven’t seen any of the children in anything before, but they’re all fantastic. The title character JoJo is played by Roman Griffin Davis and considering the whole film revolves around him, it’s a shockingly good performance. Opposite him are Tomasin McKenzie as Elsa (not that one) and Archie Yates as Yorki. Considering the subject matter, they are working with, the fact these three all deliver such great performances is a testament to their talent and the work of director Taika.

Praise must be given to Scarlett Johansson as well, she plays JoJo’s mother and I will not go into detail on the role, but she is excellent at being the heart of the film and coming across as a genuinely good person.

Director/Actor Taika is wonderfully weird and over the top as imaginary Hitler, and that makes the ridiculous things he is saying and doing acceptable. He is a ten-year old’s image of the horrific creature we know from history, and the film’s refusal to acknowledge him as anything but an over embellished bullshit peddling maniac is perfect. Yes, what the Nazi’s did was horrendous, nobody in this film argues against that. JoJo Rabbit treats the ideals that these awful people tried to instil in an entire country with the contempt it deserves. They’re portrayed as ridiculous, because that’s how outlandish and stupid the things they genuinely believed were.

The subject matter gets heavy at times, and those moments are given the room they need. The film has a lot of ups and downs, but crucially with a film on this topic, it ends it in such a positive way that you leave the cinema with a smile on your face. I had high expectations going in, and to come out with them surpassed is unbelievable to me.

The only reason I can see people not enjoying this film is because of the way it handles such awful people in the way I described above, if you’re someone who can be offended by some of the subject matter, I would advise steering clear. For me, the message and the handling of the subject is perfect as I stated, but I know that won’t be the case for all, but that’s kind of the only thing stopping me from recommending this movie to everybody.

Films are at their best when they make you feel emotions, be that at the emotional crescendo of this film, or when Iron Man snaps his fingers in Endgame, or when Woody grabs his friends hands as they head towards a garbage incinerator in  Toy Story 3. They are all moments that make you feel something, and JoJo Rabbit does it consistently throughout making this one of my very favourite films.

Good: Great Performances, Excellent Script. A Funny, Tear-Inducing rollercoaster that leaves you smiling.

Bad: Satirical handling of sensitive subject matter might not work for everyone.

10/10 – This is my favourite film of 2019