Scarlett Johansson got stuck in traffic on her way to the New York Film Festival press conference for Marriage Story the other day but her seven minute absence only bolstered the crowd's enthusiastic appreciation for the film, and her performance. Her sweet hug with co-star Alan Alda right after she arrived did not hurt either. In fact, the entire Marriage Story cast has received glowing praise for their work in the film since its Venice premiere, with Scarlett, Adam Driver and Laura Dern being singled out with some career-best raves. Currently, Adam and Laura are the Gold Derby frontrunners in their respective Oscar categories (Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress), and the hype train kept rolling in New York. This cast was in a great mood, and they know they have critical a hit. They're not being cautious with the work, or the film, and seem to be embracing their role as an acting showcase frontrunner this awards season.
Look at the Marriage Story cast celebrating together after the film received an ultra-rare standing ovation at the festival from a typically-fickle crowd:
Standing ovation for MARRIAGE STORY! 👏👏 #NYFF pic.twitter.com/ETLXjeYZ0D— 57th New York Film Festival (@TheNYFF) October 5, 2019
Veteran film industry columnist Mark Harris sums up the reception best:
New York Film Festgoers don't do "It got a 17-minute standing ovation" because we're busy. But I will say that the cast of Marriage Story tonight got one of the warmest and fullest standing ovations I have seen at the festival in the last few years.— Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNYC) October 5, 2019
Marriage Story marks the second marquee premiere of a Netflix film at the festival, following the riotous debut of Martin Scorsese's The Irishman in late September. Those two films, along with Dolemite is My Name and The Two Popes, are the streamer's big contenders this year, and following Roma's Oscar success, Netflix is angling for yet another strong showing for these efforts. Writer-director Noah Baumbach is very much on-board, telling The Hollywood Reporter at the NYFF red carpet that Netflix is the "best place to make movies right now."
Whether you believe that or not, it's certainly yielding results for Scarlett, Adam, and Laura in terms of critical praise. Noah said he approached all three of them to play their parts before writing the film (13:20 of press conference), and you can see the thought and care that went into constructing each performance. But it never feels laboured. And yes, Scarlett has repeatedly said that taking on the role of Nicole while going through her own divorce and custody battle with ex-husband Romain Dauriac only enhanced her take on the character. And reliving any pain, or accessing that personal history could lead to Scarlett's first ever nomination.
What Noah does with Marriage Story proves he's a master of details. Nobody does minutia better. The audience is not simply watching Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole's (Scarlett Johansson) relationship unravel as they battle it out for bi-coastal custody of their eight-year-old son Henry (Azhy Robertson). Instead, the viewer has their heart pulled out over and over by reliving the intimate ebb and flow of Charlie and Nicole's love story. You can see how effective these portraits are just by watching the "What I love about Charlie/Nicole" teasers Netflix released back in August; click here for a refresher.
Just because their relationship did not work out does not mean there was never love there, but it's all the more excruciating to watch them navigate their unquenchable need to get the last word over who was more creatively stifling - the struggling actress, or the overbearing theatre director - and watch on helplessly as their lawyers (Laura Dern, Alan Alda, and Ray Liotta) do their bidding. So yes, witnessing moments like Charlie struggling to get a parking lot ticket while meeting with prospective attorneys, last-minute Halloween costume plan changes, or taking a lunch order during a mediation session only adds to the complexity of their "conscious uncoupling." Seeing legal sharks Nora (Laura) and the uber-abrasive Jay (Ray) kibbitz about a John Legend charity event right before their big courtroom face-off further muddies the waters, but that non-sequitur is there to make the stakes of the pending divorce seem way less trivial. Marriage Story is a searing portrait of a relationship in peril that's hauntingly familiar with increasingly high stakes… and it's unshakeable.
As Lainey wrote last month, Laura totally walks away with the movie though with her turn as Nora Fanshaw, Nicole's attorney. Our introduction to her is pure goals, telling Nicole that she's "sorry [she] look[s] so schleppy" when she's actually wearing a perfectly-tailored splatter paint blazer, black jeans, and a chic white tank. Her posture is just as calculated and as her in-court retorts or cutthroat legal strategy, and yes, her character is (loosely?) inspired by "Disso Queen" divorce attorney Laura Wasser. Interestingly enough, Wasser reportedly represented Laura, Scarlett, and Jennifer Jason Leigh (Noah's ex-wife) in their divorces, so it's no wonder Nora is so fine-tuned as a relentless character with indefatigable posture.
But Laura insists she's not playing another version of Renata Klein, telling The Hollywood Reporter that Nora is high-powered, sure, but that she's the "opposite of unleashed" whereas the Big Little Lies CEO is "never" in control. Either way, the Laura-as-Nora GIFs are coming when Netflix releases the film in December, and they'll be as inescapable as the Succession memes on your feed. Right now, the Best Supporting Actress race looks to be locked in with Laura, Jennifer Lopez for Hustlers, Annette Bening for The Report, and hopefully Zhao Shuzhen for The Farewell. And Laura appears to have taken a clear lead with months to go before nominations and critics board announcements. An upcoming Gotham Awards tribute prize does not hurt either.
At the NYFF premiere, Laura brought her daughter Jaya Harper, while Scarlett arrived solo and Adam walked with wife Joanne Tucker. Adam seemed to be in really great spirits all day, considering the marathon of promotion he's been doing not just for this film, but also for The Report, in between filming in Brussels. His behaviour in New York was a stark contrast from his appearance at TIFF, though. Something must have happened on the Sunday of the festival in Toronto, because Adam was beyond salty with TV press. First, at the TIFF premiere of The Report, outlets were warned to keep Star Wars or Kylo Ren references out of their lines of questioning, which is totally fair. But then, when Adam arrived on the red carpet, he breezed through the press line while his co-star Annette was still doing interviews. He did the same thing hours later at the TIFF Marriage Story premiere, once again walking right past press and declining any additional interviews. Hey, things happen, but he developed a pretty sour reputation among Canadian press that day, so much so that reporter gossip about an "Adam Drive-by" became one of the takeaways of the festival. And yet, none of that attitude was on display at NYFF. At least, from what I saw. He seemed pretty jubilant, actually. (Lainey: Sorry, Toronto, I guess we’re not good enough for Adam Driver?)
Spike Lee also attended the NYFF premiere of Marriage Story. On the red carpet, he told reporters his BlackKklansman star Adam is "amazing in everything!" which yes, true. Having Spike in your corner is pretty special, as is Adam's performance in the film. But will "Adam Drive-by" make another appearance this awards season, or was it a one-time thing? The film's NYFF reception proves buzz for Marriage Story is only growing, and it would be a real shame if attitude got in the way of recognizing some truly incredible work.
Spike Lee hits the MARRIAGE STORY red carpet and speaks the truth: “Adam Driver is amazing in everything!” #NYFF pic.twitter.com/V2MXCoTW2n— 57th New York Film Festival (@TheNYFF) October 4, 2019
Backstage with Adam Driver at the #NYFF premiere of Marriage Story pic.twitter.com/MQQtEE2PW4— NetflixQueue (@NetflixQueue) October 4, 2019