Noah Baumbach's Marriage Story elicits a lot of emotions. (And memes.) The film, written and directed by Baumbach, follows characters Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) as they experience the trials and traumas of getting divorced in America. Heading into the Oscars, Marriage Story is nominated for six awards, including Best Picture.
But the film has also raised a few questions, namely about the correlations between the fictional tale and Baumbach's real life, including his own divorce. So is Marriage Story based on a true story? Let's dig into it.
In Marriage Story, we learn that L.A. native Nicole got her big break doing a teen movie called All Over the Girl. She later meets Charlie while he's directing a show in New York, and she decides to stay there and act in his plays.
After turbulence in their marriage, including Charlie cheating on Nicole with someone they work with, Nicole moves back L.A. to work on a television show and brings their son with her. In the end (spoiler!), Charlie buys a second home in L.A. and the two split custody of their son, who lives in L.A. with Nicole.
Baumbach met his first wife, Jennifer Jason Leigh, while she was on Broadway in 2001, though Leigh got her big acting break starring in the '80s teen movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Baumbach is originally from New York, while Leigh is from L.A.)
The two got married in 2005 and divorced in 2013. Similar to the characters in the movie, Baumbauch and Leigh had a son together, and after they split up, Leigh moved from New York back to her native Los Angeles and requested full custody.
Before they split up, the two worked on several movies together: Baumbach directed Leigh in Margot at the Wedding, and they co-wrote the film Greenberg, which starred Baumbach's current partner, Greta Gerwig. (Baumbach and Gerwig maintain they did not start dating until after Baumbach and Leigh split.) According to a 2013 New Yorker profile, Baumbauch is based in New York and has a house in Los Angeles, similar to Charlie. Notably, in a 2005 New York Times Magazine piece about Baumbauch and Leigh, he told the outlet: "We're New Yorkers with a country place in Los Angeles."
Though Baumbach has insisted that the film is not solely about his own life, that New Yorker profile noted "Baumbach thinks that aspects of his divorce might eventually appear in his work."
Naturally, a number of outlets asked Baumbach about the apparent similarities between the film and his own life. While speaking to Deadline about the movie, Baumbach said, "Of course, I have a real connection to the material." He later told the New York Times, "I couldn’t write an autobiographical movie if I tried. This movie is not autobiographical; it’s personal, and there’s a true distinction in that." (Baumbach is also a child of divorce, which he wrote about in his 2005 film The Squid and the Whale.) To research Marriage Story, Baumbach told the Times he spoke to "friends, and then to friends of friends, and then to the lawyers and mediators of friends," and said, "I might use autobiographical details at times, but any extrapolation beyond that has no meaning to the work or to me or anything else."
Baumbach also told the Times he showed the film to his ex-wife so "she know would know what it is." He explained that she "really liked it, because it isn’t about our marriage." He added, "That’s not to say that there aren’t emotional connections, things that happened to me emotionally that are going to be translated in some way into this story, but I think that’s true for every writer who’s gone through breakups or been in love."
You Might Also Like