Noah Baumbach's Marriage Story is a contemplation of love and an earnest exploration of how to move on when a relationship ends. It's also one of the best screenplays of the year, if not the decade, with lots of valuable lessons for screenwriters and filmmakers everywhere.
Today, I want to look at a few pages of the screenplay and see what we can glean from the writing.
Let's look at some lessons from the Marriage Story screenplay
Marriage Story is a screenplay built on two characters. We start in both their points of view. We learn everything that brought them together. The quirks, sweet little things, and idiosyncrasies that define who they are as people.
That's character development.
After that, the story takes a turn. We try to get them to arc, not together, but to understand why they need to be apart.
So what does this all look like on the page?
Baumbach carries us into Charlie and Nicole's world by relying on our imagination. He's not poetic or over the top. Everything here is in service of the story at hand. We get just enough to understand what will be filmed and to emotionally connect with the world he builds.
The scene that has everyone talking is the big fight.
It's an emotional and gritty look at what it's like to break down and put yourself back together again.
Screenplayed put together a video that shows the pages and video roll by.
One of the things I love about Baumbach's writing is that he does not over direct the actors on the page. Only necessary action is listed. There's lots of elbow room for the rest.
While it drives me nuts the default here is "I can't believe this is not improvised," I do want to take a moment to talk about great writing.
Great writing makes the actors feel comfortable. It allows a trust to grow between the people within the film and helps guide the editing later. Baumbach is one of our great writers. And what he does here is pull the best performances out of great actors by allowing them to find their way around the scene with his words.
So, the next time you script a fight or speech, leave some elbow room for the actors portraying the characters within it.
What's your favorite thing about the Marriage Story script?
Let us know in the comments.
And just for a bonus...here's Noah Baumbach talking about directing the movie.
What's next? Read and download the Irishman script.
If you read and download The Irishman script, you can learn a ton of lessons about pacing, structure, and narrative storytelling.
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