Hollywood loves breakup and divorce movies, even if the average moviegoer doesn’t. Movies like Annie Hall and Kramer vs. Kramer—even Mrs. Doubtfire in its last 20 minutes—leave viewers with an indigestion-like feeling of unresolved discomfort while critics and awards-show voters applaud louder and louder. It’s as though making a movie that’s painful to watch represents some sort of career achievement level for actors, writers, and directors.
If that’s the goal, director Noah Baumbach has succeeded with Marriage Story. He takes viewers on an uphill slog through the worst moments in the small lives of the most self-absorbed spouses in the world. Adam Driver was more sympathetic as a budding Sith Lord in the latest Star Wars movies than as the clueless, entitled husband Charlie. He starts off understanding and accommodating but flips to resentful and verbally abusive faster than you can say, “Charlie, come to the dark side.”
Wife Nicole, played by Scarlett Johanssen, treats Charlie like a genie who should grant her every wish. When he doesn’t deliver, she punishes him with the help of Los Angeles’ most monstrous divorce lawyer. There are hints in the film’s final minutes that maybe their dumpster fire of a divorce has changed Charlie and Nicole for the better. But that change comes at the expense of the well-being of their 8-year-old son, Henry, who is academically, emotionally, and socially stunted.
Hollywood is drooling over Marriage Story. It earned six Golden Globe nominations—more than any other film this year. Maybe in a subculture with a divorce rate twice that of the rest of the country, a film like this provides a sort of comforting validation.
For those who understand marriage as a covenant between helpmates, not a means to personal fulfillment, I asked WORLD News Group staff members to name their favorite pro-marriage movies and TV shows—beyond the obvious titles by the Kendrick brothers (Fireproof, Courageous, War Room). Not all of them deal directly with marriage, but they portray married couples growing together through trials.
- Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (2014)
- Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
- The Family Man (2000)
- The Incredibles (2004)
- Instant Family (2018)
- The Philadelphia Story (1940)
- Up (2009)
- Madam Secretary
- The Goldbergs
- The Middle
- This Is Us
Editor’s note: While none of the above movies and TV shows are rated R, not all are suitable for children.