This is brilliant film making and one of my favorites of 2019. The movie opens with Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johanssen) listing the small details that makes them love one another. They have decided to divorce and want to do it amicably through mediation. After all they are smart reasonable people. They live in Brooklyn, he’s a successful theater director, she’s his star and they have this wonderful artsy life going…with an 8 year old son too. The problem is at some point Nicole and Charlie got on different pages. He thought they are perfectly happy in NYC doing what he wants to do. She always wanted to at least live for some time in LA where she is from and perhaps pursue an acting career. Now, enter divorce and divorce lawyers and all civility -mostly- is gone to shit.
Her lawyer is played by Laura Dern and like everyone in this film is absolutely amazing. She’s a shark, she is good at her job and she is expensive. He engages with the kind fatherly-type lawyer played by Alan Alda (really everyone here is so good in their respective roles…). Pretty gradually we are travelling between LA and NY and watching these likable pair as the process of divorce wrecks their world. Driver and Johanssen have never been this good and there are several amazing scenes where they deliver their best performances in anything I have seen them in. This is not a fun movie but it can be pretty funny at times among all the heartbreak. It’s complex storytelling with complex scenes and really masterful direction. No one here is bad or all good. How we read the conclusion I think can vary based on out perspective or place in life or even age. I think it is an ordeal but it is a bit hopeful too.