To call Marriage Story the most accomplished work in Noah Baumbach’s career risks implying that his filmography wasn’t already stacked with successes. Frances Ha remains one of the sharpest comedies of the decade, Mistress America possesses so much quirk it borders the genius, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) is as perceptive of human behavior as I’ve seen in years. So what elevates Baumbach’s latest above his previous films?
Like Tarantino and Scorsese before him, Baumbach has slowed down. Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood looks back at the passage of time and reflects upon it, simultaneously wishing for a better future. In The Irishman, Scorsese employs the expectations that his classic Goodfellas set upon us and subverts them by delivering a picture tinged with regret, without any of the frenetic rush that was found in Goodfellas. Similarly, Noah Baumbach attempts something different. His characters still possess his trademark wit, but they’re not exchanging fast paced barbs with one another.
For the first time in his career, Baumbach allows his camera to rest on his protagonists without them saying anything at all. When they do speak, almost every word is painful, funny, real, yours. The script is phenomenal, and it makes me jealous that I’ll never be able to write something as stirring and true as this. Like with Tarantino and Scorsese, you realize that the unforgiving passage of time has taught Baumbach that everything dies. Thank God for cinema then, for reminding us of this utmost truth and spurring us on towards the only reasonable way to live.