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A Marriage Story (2019)

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Spoilers, I guess.

I did not like A Marriage Story very much. It was well executed, I guess, but I am not sure it told me anything I didn't already know or feel anything more complicated than that people who are suffering are sad. 

First, it really should be called A Divorce Story. The couple is separating when the movie begins. One might argue--and I sorta expected--that the story of the marriage would be told in flashback, but....not really. Or at least not in any meaningful, comprehensive way. I've heard more than one person discussing the film at Filmfest 919 agree with my assessment that the film is slanted to the Adam Driver character. It is the wife who physically leaves, going to California and taking the kid, who refuses to engage in (counseling? mediation?) who hires a lawyer (after they agree they wouldn't) and then consults with all the other lawyers so that he *can't* get that she demands he get. Yes, some of this is showing her getting seduced by her lawyer, I guess, and maybe that says something about her inability to stand up for herself. On his side...well, he has an affair. Or rather, had an affair, earlier in the marriage, though he declines continuing it after she leaves. He doesn't listen to her when she says she wants to leave for California and maybe...cares more about his career than hers. Oh, and he says he wishes she were dead. 

It is, of course, telling that most of the stuff he does to her is related at second hand and is in the *past* while most of the stuff she does to him is depicted on screen. My point is not that none of this could happen or does happen. I did think it odd how many people introducing the film (or guest of honor) use the word "empathetic" to describe it. The film did not engender empathy in me, only sympathy. 

But it also frustrated me a bit. By calling itself a *Marriage* story, is it implying that this is what marriage *is*? That this is not the dissolution or deterioration of a marriage but the essence of it? The ending, too, seemed to suggest to me that divorce could be (and usually is) a good thing. Painful, yes, but painfully *necessary,* and hence, leading to a kind of independence within interdependence that can never be achieved in marriages, even healthy ones. 

Driver has never been better (I'm usually not a fan), and Scarlett with two "t"s? She conveys, I guess, in a scary way, the rage some women must feel at not being heard and not being seen while having to live in a world where they are called upon to be happy all the time and subordinate their lives to that of men. The couple is not Christian, of course, nor does religion appear to play much of any part in their courtship, marriage, or divorce. Does that matter? Well it does to me, but only to the extent that it shades my beliefs about what marriage is and, hence, what they are doing when they enter into that marriage, give up on it, and justify their separation.

Still, I have this nagging feeling that this will feel...familiar to a lot of people and that familiarity will be mistook for wisdom or truth. I would not be surprised by a host of nominations (for writing and acting and supporting acting), but I sure hope it doesn't win. It's like The Squid & The Whale is rewritten from the dad's perspective. Will we get a third movie about the same thing that's more clearly from the woman's perspective, or is the assumption that this film does that? 

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