You’d best know Adam Driver from his role as Adam Sackler in HBO’s Girls, Star Wars as the vengeful Kylo Ren, or for his Academy Award nominated Flip Zimmerman in BlacKkKlansman.
This year, Driver has a new role in Marriage Story released on Netflix December 6, which is garnering much attention and for good reason. Driver is at the helm alongside co-star Scarlett Johansson, where the two play Charlie and Nicole, a married couple who are navigating through an impending divorce. The story takes you through the start, and how their divorce proceeds to include lawyers and the custody of their 8-year-old son, Henry.
First, let us start by saying that Johansson nails her role. She takes writer and director Noah Baumbach’s script and only elevates it in a way Johansson can do. The whole supporting cast is incredible, including Laura Dern, Ray Liotta and Alan Alda.
However, we want to talk about Driver specifically in this article. In Baumbach’s story, the writing leads to more of an empathetic turn towards Charlie. However, what Driver does with the character really takes Charlie to a whole new level. The writing is spectacular, but it’s the little nuances that Driver brings to the role that really makes Charlie stand out.
In the scene where Charlie is served divorce papers is when we get our first example of Driver’s dedication and small nuances that make this character so riveting. When he receives the divorce papers and Johansson’s Nicole is in the kitchen awaiting his response, you can see the wheels turning on Driver’s face; you can watch the character thinking and analyzing, and that’s something only a skilled and incredible actor can portray. Driver leaves all of his emotions in his expressions, and you can see what he’s thinking without him saying it.
In the room where Charlie is having a side-bar with his lawyer during mediation, you really see Driver’s anger come out in a way we haven’t seen his character do so yet. Driver has such a way of delivering lines and telling stories that are unique to him. It’s the way we get lost in a character of his, and how he can change his tactics and delivery to exactly what each portrayal needs. Specifically in Star Wars, we see Driver’s character get angry … all the time. However, it’s a completely different anger and delivery in his performance as Charlie that you can see just how much he studies and throws himself into each character differently. He gets emotional and you can read all the tells on his face, and specifically in this scene, he takes a long pause where he puts his hand over his mouth — almost as if he’s catching himself before he says something he’ll regret — but the delivers the line anyway, “I should have never let her come out here with Henry.” Driver has stated in interviews that they stuck heavily to the script without improvisation, and it just goes to show how much thought his technique through, and how believable he is as an actor to deliver these lines in such a way that makes the audience think he really did come up with them.
One last scene in particular that really sets the tone for Driver in this film is where he and Johansson square off in a scene in Charlie’s apartment. As you watch it, you realize that with all of the heavy dialogue and heavy emotion, it’s one continual shot. No shot changes, no breakup of the dialogue — these actors did an incredible job in one shot. The emotion that radiates off of these two really makes you feel like you know them and their story. Driver once again delivers the scene with such emotion and small nuances that you can feel the tension radiating off him, and when he breaks down and cries, you really believe him and are hanging onto every word he says — even in a time where you’re not supposed to like his character.
Towards the end of the film, Driver sings “Being Alive” and it’s such a soft and vulnerable moment for Driver and the character. His delivery — which is very Broadway-like — really drives home the feeling of Charlie’s divorce. Also towards the end, Henry discovers Nicole’s letter to Charlie from the beginning of the film, where she wrote down all the things she loved about Charlie. Watching Driver read that, and his emotions changing as he reads through and reads the last line — there’s not enough words to praise Driver here. It’s the part in the film where we really let go of the emotions and cry alongside him.
Overall, this film really showcases Driver’s talent. He’s an incredibly dedicated and talented actor. He’s vulnerable in all the right places. It’s so easy to read his emotion, to look into his eyes and feel what the character is feeling. He draws you in, scene after scene, and leaves you really rooting for Charlie. Marriage Story in itself is a heavy story, and Driver takes the audience along for the ride and only elevates Charlie.
There’s a lot of buzz already for Driver being a favorite to not only get nominated for an Academy Award, but to win it. After seeing Marriage Story, there’s no one else who deserves it more.