DIRECTOR Noah Baumbach’s forensic examination of an imploding marriage is both a love letter to love itself – and a warning against what happens when it goes wrong.
Adam Driver is Charlie, a feted New York film director, and Scarlett Johansson is Nicole, a Hollywood actress.
Together they have a cute eight-year-old called Henry and we meet them listing all the many endearing ways in which they love each other (he can darn a sock, she leaves cold cups of tea everywhere) over a beautiful Randy Newman score.
We get yanked from this delightful montage as we realise these lists have been compiled as an opening gambit in some pre-divorce mediation.
The couple’s insistence that their separation is to be handled maturely and sensibly, with no lawyers and no finger-pointing, is admirable and we as voyeurs are willing them to achieve that. But love is never that simple — particularly when it’s all gone tits up.
What follows over the next two hours is quite possibly the most visceral, hilarious, heartbreaking, terrifying and touching piece of cinema I think I’ve ever seen.
Written after Baumbach’s own marriage to actress Jennifer Jason-Leigh ended, it lays bare everything we know about love and companionship — and shows us all how little we know and how much less we can alter its course.
It’s also a film that wears its influence on its sleeve — and whether you like it or not, this is the best Woody Allen film he never made.
It’s so quintessentially New York, you can taste the hotdogs and smog.
The film is written perfectly and both Johansson and Driver give career-best performances. But doing a lot of the heavy lifting are a dynamite supporting cast including Laura Dern and Ray Liotta as the most horrifying lawyers on the planet, Alan Alda, Merritt Wever and a special nod to
Airplane’s Julie Hagerty who is almost scene-stealing as Nicole’s ditsy mum Sandra.
For such a miserable narrative, it is also extremely uplifting and often utterly hilarious. The juxtaposition of a ten- minute fierce argument between the couple and an almost Basil Fawlty level of farce involving a penknife taking place in the same tiny apartment, minutes apart, is startling.
I’ve seen this film three times now and still can’t work out if it’s a cautionary tale against ever getting married or one that says surely nothing can be bad enough for a messy divorce (obviously neither of those are true).
There is not a single scene that is unrelatable and it is presented to you in its bleak and beautiful glory.
Whether you watch it with your loved one is entirely up to you — it’s on Netflix from today — it could go one of two ways.
But it’s almost certainly my Film Of The Year and one that could grab Best Movie at the Oscars. See it immediately.
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