Film Studies: Marriage Story Criticism, The Representations of A Painful Marriage Life Seen From Gender Perspective

Aditia Lestari
6 min readApr 24, 2021


Marriage Story is not the worst movie I saw this year, but it is not also the best. Marriage story for me is romantic humor as well as a thriller marriage life which is poured into a film. Noah Baumbach as a director seems quite successful in making the film’s atmosphere both painful and hilarious for the viewers to feel. Noah Baumbach describes in detail the devastating tale in the emotional cold war of the divorce of a married couple, as well as the financial and family troubles that are tucked in. Noah Baumbach’s film depicts a discolored and theatrical story of a couple experiencing nervous breakdowns. Baumbach boldly polishes his film with a theatrical mise-en-scene technique to convey the divorce story of Charlie and Nicole who are well-behaved visually, each Charlie (Adam Driver) who plays the director and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) as a theater actress.

I discover this film use different composition shot in some scene. First, in some scenes, this movie uses the rule of thirds to show the characters’ relation to other elements in the scene. This composition creates an atmosphere to the viewers of how the character is well played. For instance, in the first minutes of this movie, it accentuates Nicole’s friendly character and always makes people around her feel comfortable. Likewise, this movie also seems to use blocking techniques in some scenes whenever two characters are in a conversation and doing interaction, especially in the fight scene between Nicole and Charlie. Likewise, those composition creates a great cinematography in the movie, as if actually filming the real circumstances of a life story. However, for me, Marriage Story is a kind of slow story, stories about the end of a marriage that dragged so many places, conflicts, and problems in married life that are so complicated. I’ve been thinking if you want to observe or discover what happens in this movie, you better take really serious attention to the scenes as well. Anyways, I also think that this film is very mindblowing and can be said to be manipulated because from the start I really couldn’t guess how the characters in this film were depicted, for example, I could never guess that Charlie is actually not really a good guy or Nicole is too play victim and has never seen her own mistakes.

A Marriage Story could be said to the representative of real marriage life that might everybody or every couple has experienced. I highlight how this film is not described as a romantic film with an adorable beginning, conflict in the middle, and a happy ending story like most films. Well, let’s see how this movie tells us the real problems that couples often face, not only about financial problems, family, but also communication problems. As a viewer, we are asked to analyze what is the root cause of their relationship which is getting worse and more painful. Baumbach also seems to want to put down the bad side of a marriage, how to endure the end of a marriage is not easily resolved, the two will go through the consultation phase, meditation, a great fight, the family involved, until finally they are truly separated or reconciled.

Talking about gender perspective, I do agree this movie is the right movie to be debated by male and female to see how their perspective over the relationship, especially how Charlie and Nicole’s issues. For me, I kindly will talk both sides of them, because like I said before I could never guess how both show their character and I conclude both of them are not perfect. What I mean by not perfect is there is no perfect couple. Charlie is described as a cheater and a judgmental person. He was also wrapped up in his work to the detriment of both Nicole’s career and her sense of self. While Nicole is described as a wishy-washy, unpredictable, and unstable person. Moreover, she hires Nora and believes she’ll play fair. That’s a major error of judgment. Plus, whether by design or accident, she blocks Charlie from using most other affordable lawyers by consulting them first. Her sister set up the meetings, but, given the number of them, it’s hard to believe that she saw them all accidentally. The film opens with Charlie and Nicole describing what they love about each other, but minutes later it becomes clear that they are far from being the perfect and harmonious marriage couple. They hardly talk to each other at their home, even as they celebrate the end of a successful Charlie Off-Broadway show, and the after-party ends with the two of them leaving suddenly, acting unmarried couple, then implying that Charlie has been having an affair with a member of his crew. Nicole is then described as an unstable woman and doesn’t want to tell her hidden feelings. Her decision to buy a house in LA and her desire to leave Charlie without communicating it. Nicole seems like a cold wife and lets it haunt Charlie. Even though we know from the start that Charlie is ultimately wrong, Baumbach cleverly composes the narrative so that the viewers is implicitly on Charlie’s side afterward.

In order to analyze what Baumbach want to tell us about couple’s problem in this movie, I take a view notes over the scenes. First, This couple did not communicate well. Baumbach seems to want to tell us that the biggest problem in the household is poor communication between the two. Second, whatever the problem, cheating is not an outlet. I think this is the biggest representation of all the problems the couple ended, the affair. Third, divorce is a painful, cumbersome, and slow process. Baumbach wants to show a different story and make it similar to the reality that getting married and then separating is not as beautiful and easy as it is in romantic films in general.

Lastly, let’s talking about the strengths and the weaknesses of this movie. First, the strengths are the story has the longest start-to-end scene I’ve seen in some time. Movies are alive and well. This film also tells a story that fits reality and is different from other romantic films. I didn’t know Baumbach before this film, but now I’m quite into him. Moreover, The script is phenomenal, and the directions are even better, unique, and different. Meanwhile, the weaknesses of this movie are this is a movie with a plot that is quite painful to imagine in real life from one of the scenes. The level of the thriller is off the charts for some scenes. In some parts, I am very uncomfortable with scenes that might traumatize some people. While I love the film, and I think it deserves a lot of awards, I wouldn’t recommend it to people unless they ask for this genre. I don’t think Marriage Story is for everyone. It was a sad, painful story, cringe and there were many soul-shattering moments.

Overall, this is the best piece I’ve seen from Noah Baumbach and his cast, Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver. This film immerses me in small moments. I can’t imagine how hard things would be if you had ever gone through a divorce or your own parents separated as this film tells as well. Marriage Story is a tough film to watch with writing, reality, and performances that are more than just an inconvenience, but also an image that no marriage is perfect, as well as a lesson for viewers.