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Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson Earn Career-Best Reviews as ‘Marriage Story’ Oscar Buzz Takes Off

The first "Marriage Story" reviews out of the Venice Film Festival agree both leading actors have "major awards potential."

Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver

Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver

Camilla Morandi/ShutterstockCamilla Morandi/Shutterstock

If the first reviews coming out of the Venice Film Festival for Noah Baumbach’s divorce drama “Marriage Story” are to be believed, then the fall movie season has its first bonafide Oscar contender. The Netflix release premiered in competition to instant awards buzz for writer-director Baumbach and his two leading actors, Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson. IndieWire’s chief critic Eric Kohn calls the movie an “astonishing showcase” for the performers in his A- review, writing the actors deliver “devastating performances” as a couple going through a divorce after 10 years of marriage.

Owen Gleiberman of Variety agrees, adding in his review, “At once funny, scalding, and stirring, built around two bravura performances of incredible sharpness and humanity, ‘Marriage Story’ is the work of a major film artist.”

Vanity Fair film critic Richard Lawson writes Driver and Johansson have “major awards potential,” a sentiment ScreenDaily critic Fionnuala Halligan agrees with. Halligan calls the “outstanding, stripped-raw performances” by Driver and Johansson career highlights.

“Both leads impress,” Halligan says. “Johannson expands on the range she has previously shown to portray a woman who may be likeable but isn’t always sympathetic. Driver gives a bold performance with just the right observations of the unconscious control his character has exerted over his partner. His choices add great depth to the role as written: he would seem a natural for awards attention here.”

Lawson notes the script provides “an expansion of Driver’s appeal, and a decidedly more grownup role than Johansson’s been given in a while.” Johansson was singled out for praise by The Guardian’s Xan Brooks for her “brilliantly textured work,” with The Hollywood Reporter’s Jon Frosch adding, “The actress makes you feel the clashing impulses and instincts — anger and longing, defiance and guilt, boldness and trepidation — in every step of Nicole’s transition into life without Charlie.”

Frosh also noted that “Driver delivers a brilliantly inhabited and shaded portrait of a man who’s forced to reckon with that reality.”

“It’s difficult to call either Johansson or Driver a ‘revelation’ here on the heels of so much strong work in recent years, but both manage to outdo themselves,” adds The Wrap critic Alfonso Duralde. “It’s devastating, essential, and destined to be remembered long after this awards cycle ends.”

The universal acclaim for Driver and Johansson make each one to watch in the Oscar races for Best Actor and Best Actress moving forward. Netflix is clearly making “Marriage Story” one of its top awards contenders this season, bringing the drama to all four major festivals (Venice, Telluride, TIFF, NYFF) like it did with “Roma” last year.

“Marriage Story” will open in select theaters November 6 before making its streaming debut December 6 on Netflix.

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