‘Marriage Story’, written and directed by Noah Baumbach of ‘The Squid and the Whale’ fame, is a heartbreakingly beautiful and incredibly warm film. Netflix often comes up with several romantic-comedies during the holiday season, some of which are not that great, and most of which have a happy ending. ‘Marriage Story’, then not only becomes a breath of fresh air, but brings to us the kind of devastating but genuine story about love, loss and heartache, that both stings our heart and melts it. Perhaps, in its own way, it also marks the beginning of something different and huge.
Unlike what the title suggests, ‘Marriage Story’ is not as much a movie about marriage as it is a story about divorce.
Inspired by Baumbach’s own divorce with actress Jennifer Jason Leigh in 2013, and the divorce of his parents which he witnessed as a child, ‘Marriage Story’, is perhaps, his best work till date. It won him wide critical acclaim and also several awards and nominations for his direction and screenplay. The movie stars Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver as the lead pair, playing Nicole and Charlie Barber. It also stars Laura Dern, Julie Haggerty, Alan Alda and Ray Liotta in supporting roles.
The movie revolves around the lives and relationship of Charlie Barber, a successful theatre director in New York City, and his wife Nicole, an actress, as they struggle with marital problems. Nicole leaves for Los Angeles to live with her mother as she is offered a role on a television pilot, while Charlie remains in New York. The couple eventually decide to separate amicably and co-parent their son, Henry. Things take a more difficult and grueling turn when lawyers get involved, giving rise to custody issues and personal conflicts. The rest of the movie delicately explores how the two deal with their separation, heartaches and changes.
As the couple struggles with their coast-to-coast divorce, the movie also ends up becoming about the two coastal cities that the characters to choose to live in. ‘Marriage Story’ was shot entirely in these cities to stay true to its story-line. Read on to learn more about filming locations of the film.
Marriage Story Filming Locations
In its own way, ‘Marriage Story’, also depicts the age-old West-Coast – East-Coast divide between New York and Los Angeles. Each city serves as a visual representation of the character it inhabits. The two cities also become symbolic of both the differences and similarities between Charlie and Nicole, as well as of the distance between them. It also begins in New York and ends in L.A., revealing all the life, career and relationship altering changes the couple undergo, together, and individually as they navigate through their journey of their separation, heartache and new beginnings. The entire film was shot in the two cities between January and April of 2018.
New York City
The movie begins in New York City, with Charlie as a successful and ambitious theatre director. While Nicole, his wife, is as an actress who gives up her budding Hollywood career to be a part of his theatre group. When Nicole decides to move back to Los Angeles, Charlie is not entirely supportive. He chooses to stay back in New York, working on his play that is in process of being moved to Broadway.
New York visually represents Charlie, his passions and ambitions. It is, after all, the “concrete jungle where dreams are made of”. The city is a capital for the art and culture in the current age, with its cultural movements and history, and fast-paced life. In the New York scenes, Charlie is shown to be surrounded by people. It is also the theatre hub of America because of Broadway, every theatre artist’s biggest dream. To Nicole, it simultaneously serves as a reminder of not living for herself or her ambition, but for Charlie.
Production designer, Jade Healy, worked on the set, having the characters’ New York home filled with books and art, making using of browns and grays, and muted reds and greens, to go with the vibe of New York.
The City of Los Angeles is home to Hollywood, making it another city of dreams in America, and perhaps even rest of the world, for anyone and everyone who wants to make it big as an actor. In ‘Marriage Story’, Nicole is offered a role in a TV pilot in Los Angeles. She decides to leave the theatre company in New York, to finally follow her own ambitions. It is also Nicole’s hometown, as the movie has her moving in with her mother (played by Julie Haggerty) in West Hollywood. The City of Los Angles then offers a visual representation of Nicole, her desires and ambitions.
In Los Angeles, the film’s colour palettes end up changing to paler green, pinks, and blues, in an attempt to make L.A. more like Nicole. The L.A. scenes, as opposed to the crowed New York, made use of the negative between the Nicole and Charlie in order to dramatize their separation.
The movie ends with Charlie moving to Los Angeles for a year as he takes up a residency at U.C.L.A. to be closer to and spend more time with his son, Henry. The film ends on a heartwarming yet bittersweet moment between Nicole and Charlie, with a sense closure and a love between them that will always be, despite the differences the two share.
Baumbach, in one of his interviews, mentioned how the two cities allowed him “to dramatize the divorce in a more visual way”, making it a rather unusual story about love and separation. Personally, I believe that ‘Marriage Story’ is the kind of film one experiences only once in their lifetime and the kind that lingers and leaves an impact. I assure you that you wouldn’t have watched anything like this before and probe you not miss it.
Read More: Is Marriage Story Based on a True Story?