Starring: Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta, Laura Dern, Merritt Wever, Azhy Robertson
OUR RATING: ★★★½
Drama written and directed by Noah Baumbach. The story follows a stage director, Charlie (Adam Driver), and his actor wife, Nicole (Scarlett Johansson), as they struggle through a grueling, coast-to-coast divorce that pushes them to their personal and creative extremes.
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Our Favorite Quotes:'Listen, if we start from a place of reasonable, and they start from a place of crazy, when we settle, we'll be somewhere between reasonable and crazy.' - Jay Marotta (Marriage Story) Click To Tweet 'Criminal lawyers see bad people at their best, divorce lawyers see good people at their worst.' - Ted (Marriage Story) Click To Tweet
Charlie: [voice over] What I love about Nicole. She makes people feel comfortable about even embarrassing things. She really listens when someone is talking. Sometimes she listens too much for too long. She’s a good citizen. She always knows the right thing to do when it comes to difficult family sh*t. I get stuck in my ways, and she knows when to push me, and when to leave me alone. She cuts all our hair. She’s always inexplicably brewing a cup of tea that she doesn’t drink. And it’s not easy for her to put away a sock, or close a cabinet, or do a dish, but she tries for me. Nicole grew up in LA around actors, and directors, and movies, and TV, and is very close to her mother, Sandra, and Cassie, her sister.
Charlie: [voice over] Nicole gives great presents. She is a mother who plays, really plays. She never steps off playing, or says it’s too much. And it must be too much some of the time. She’s competitive. She’s amazing at opening jars because of her strong arms, which I’ve always found very sexy. She keeps the fridge over-full. No one is ever hungry in our house. She can drive a stick. After that movie, All Over The Girl, she could have stayed in LA and been a movie star, but she gave that up to do theater with me in New York. She’s brave. She’s a great dancer. Infectious. She makes me wish I could dance. She always says when she doesn’t know something, or hasn’t read a book, or seen a film, or a play, whereas I fake it, or say something like, “I haven’t seen it in a while.” My crazy ideas are her favorite things to figure out how to execute. She’s my favorite actress.
Nicole: [voice over] What I love about Charlie. Charlie is undaunted. He never lets other people’s opinions, or any setbacks keep him from what he wants to do. Charlie eats like he’s trying to get it over with, and like there won’t be enough food for everyone. A sandwich is to be strangled while devoured. But he’s incredibly neat, and I rely on him to keep things in order. He’s energy-conscious. He doesn’t look in the mirror too often.
[after watching a movie]
Henry: I cried four times.
Charlie: Me too. I wonder if it was the same four.
[referring to Charlie]
Nicole: [voice over] He cries easily in movies. He’s very self-sufficient. He can darn a sock, and cook himself dinner, and iron a shirt. He rarely gets defeated, which I feel like I always do. Charlie takes all of my moods steadily. He doesn’t give in to them, or make me feel bad about them. He’s a great dresser. He never looks embarrassing, which is hard for a man. He’s very competitive. He loves being a dad. He loves all the things you’re supposed to hate, like the tantrums, the waking up at night. It’s almost annoying how much he likes it, but then it’s mostly nice.
[referring to Charlie]
Nicole: [voice over] He disappears into his own world. He and Henry are alike in that way. He can tell people when they have food in their teeth, or on their face in a way that doesn’t make them feel bad. Charlie is self-made. His parents, I only met them once, but he told me there was a lot of alcohol, and some violence in his childhood. He moved to New York from Indiana with no safety net, and now he’s more New Yorker than any New Yorker. He’s brilliant at creating family out of whoever is around. With the theater company, he cast a spell that made everyone feel included. No one, not even an intern, was unimportant. He could remember all the inside jokes. He’s extremely organized and thorough. He’s very clear about what he wants, unlike me, who can’t always tell.
[referring to their notes on what they like about each other]
Mediator: Who wants to start?
Nicole: I’m not going to read this out loud.
Mediator: Why is that?
Nicole: Because I don’t like what I wrote.
Mediator: As we mediate your separation, and eventual divorce, things can get quite contentious. So, I like to begin with a note of positivity, for the people I work with to remember why they got married in the first place. And so that, as you come apart, you’re reminded that this is a person you had great feeling for, and maybe still do in many ways.
[referring to his notes on the things he likes about Nicole]
Charlie: I’ll read mine. I like what I wrote.
Mediator: For it to really work, you both have to read.
Nicole: I’m not going to.
Mediator: Okay, um, I just think it’s a shame that you guys aren’t going to get to hear, uh, the wonderful things you wrote about each other.
Charlie: She always says I can’t write, but I think mine’s pretty good.
Mediator: Nicole, maybe you’d change your mind once you heard Charlie’s.
Nicole: I don’t want to hear Charlie’s.
Charlie: We promised to listen.
Mediator: That’s right. That’s the very first step in this process.
Nicole: Well, I think I’m going to go if you two are going to just sit around and suck each other’s d*cks.
[she gets up and leaves]
Charlie: If you don’t like that mediator, we’ll find another one.
Charlie: We might not need a mediator. We’ll just split everything anyway, I don’t care.
Nicole: Me neither.
Charlie: You can have most of it. We’ll get apartments near each other, make it easier for Henry. We’ll figure it out. We want the same things.
Charlie: In the meantime, the pilot will be fun for you.
Nicole: You don’t think it’s bad, do you?
Charlie: I don’t ever watch TV. So, you know, I can’t tell.
[she looks at the show on TV that Charlie is watching]
Charlie: I told Henry I’d come out to LA in two weeks to see him.
Nicole: I can tell you want to give me a note.
Charlie: No, I don’t. Yeah. I mean, yes, I do. But I guess, it doesn’t matter now. You won’t be with the show anymore. It’s stupid.
Nicole: You’re not going to be able to sleep until you tell me.
Charlie: Maybe not.
Nicole: Okay, then.
Charlie: So, there are two things. I thought your posture at the top of scene seven is still too dignified.
Charlie: And then, at the end, I could tell you were pushing for the emotion.
Nicole: Well, you know I can’t cry on stage, and I know you don’t like it when I fake it, but I thought maybe tonight it would come, but it didn’t.
Charlie: That’s all I had. Thanks for indulging me.
Nicole: Good night, Charlie.
[we then see Nicole walking to her room crying silently]
[after Nicole moves to LA and stays with her mom]
Sandra: It’s as if you have exploded into this room.
Nicole: Jesus, it’s early.
[Sandra follows Nicole to the bathroom]
Nicole: I can do this part alone.
Sandra: Fine. I won’t look. As long as you’re in my house, wake up is at 6:30 AM, and until you know what you want to do, we’re going to do what I like to do.
Nicole: I can’t just go from what Charlie wanted to do to what you want to do.
Sandra: Even though I am sixty four, and have a dead gay husband, I manage to get up every day, live my life, and feel pretty good about myself. So maybe your mom knows a thing or two.
Sandra: You know what I would do?
Nicole: About what?
Sandra: When Charlie gets here, I’d whisk him off to Palm Springs. That’s what your father and I did whenever we hit a speed bump.
Nicole: Didn’t you walk in on dad blowing the porter in Palm Springs?
Sandra: And I always regretted getting so upset about it.
Nicole: Charlie and I are getting a divorce, mom. There’s nothing for us in Palm Springs.
[after filming her pilot episode for her TV show]
Nicole: At our theater I always wanted to direct, and then Charlie would say something like, “The next one,” but he was always the director, so there never was a next one. I don’t know. Maybe if we’d stayed married, there would’ve been. I don’t know.
[as Nicole meets lawyer, Nora]
Nora Fanshaw: How are you doing?
[Nicole begins to cry]
[after Nicole has burst into tears in their first meeting]
Nora Fanshaw: So, I know how it feels.
Nicole: You do?
Nora Fanshaw: Yes. I have a kid from my ex, who is a narcissistic artist, and verbally abusive. I’m now with a great boyfriend who lives in Malibu.
Nicole: Oh, good. Well, Charlie’s not terrible.
Nora Fanshaw: No, of course not. But they ravish you with attention in the beginning, and then once we have babies, we become the mom, and they get sick of us.
[referring to LA]
Nicole: It’s the only home I’ve ever known without Charlie.
Nora Fanshaw: You want to stay here?
Nicole: Charlie’s not going to want that. He hates LA.
Nora Fanshaw: We’re interested in what you want to do. Sounds to me like you did your time in New York. He can do some time here, no?
Nicole: He always said we would, but he never did.
Nora Fanshaw: I want you to listen to me. What you’re doing is an act of hope. Do you understand that?
Nora Fanshaw: You’re saying, “I want something better for myself.”
Nicole: I do.
Nora Fanshaw: And this, right now, is the worst time. It will only get better. Wasn’t it Tom Petty who said, “The waiting is the hardest part?”
Nicole: Oh. I don’t know.
Nora Fanshaw: I represented his wife in their divorce. I got her half of that song.
Nicole: Oh, I don’t want any money or anything.
Nora Fanshaw: Hmm.
Nicole: I just worry because we weren’t going to use lawyers, so I don’t want to be too aggressive. I want to stay friends.
Nora Fanshaw: We’ll do it as gently as possible.
Nora Fanshaw: Can you tell me a little more about what’s going on? Because part of what we’re going to do together is tell your story.
Nicole: It’s difficult to articulate. It’s not as simple as not being in love anymore.
Nora Fanshaw: I understand. Why don’t you start at the beginning? Wherever that is for you.
Nicole: Well, uh, I was engaged to Ben, and living in LA, you know? And I felt like, yes, I want to make movies and marry Ben. Jesus, I was only nineteen, or twenty, at the time. I never felt older in my whole life. Anyway, if I was honest with myself, it was like a small part of me felt dead, or dead-ish. You know, you tell yourself, “No one’s perfect, no relationship’s perfect.”
[referring to her relationship with Charlie]
Nicole: [to Nora] The dead part wasn’t dead, it was just in a coma. And it was better than the sex, the talking. Although the sex was also like the talking. You know, everything is like everything in a relationship. Don’t you find that? And, um, so, we spent the whole night and the next day together, and I just never left. Yes, to be honest, all the problems were there in the beginning too. But I just went along with him and his life because it felt so damn good to feel myself alive.
[referring to her relationship with Charlie]
Nicole: [to Nora] In the beginning, I was the actress, the star, and that felt like something, you know. People came to see me at first, but the farther away I got from that, and the more acclaim the theater company got, I had less and less weight. I just became, “Who?” “Well, you know, the actress that was in that thing that time.” And he was the draw. And that would’ve been fine, but I got smaller. I realized I didn’t ever really come alive for myself. I was just feeding his aliveness. And, you know, he was so smart and creative, it was fine.
[referring to her relationship with Charlie]
Nicole: [to Nora] You know, I would tell him things at home in private, and they would work their way into public conversation into his work. And for a while, that felt like enough. I mean, I was just so flattered that someone like him would find an idea I had worth trying, or a comment I made worth repeating, and then I got pregnant. And I thought that having a baby could be ours, could really be ours, but also really mine. And, you know, he was so excited. So, it was nice. For a while. I mean, kids, they belong to themselves. It’s like the instant they leave your body, it’s just the process of them going away. And I didn’t belong to myself.
[referring to her relationship with Charlie]
Nicole: [to Nora] And it was small stuff, stupid stuff, and big stuff. All the furniture in our house, it was his taste. I didn’t even know what my taste was anymore because I had never been asked to use it. I didn’t even pick our apartment. I just moved into his. And I made noises about wanting to move back to LA, but they came to nothing. And we’d come here on holidays because he liked my family. But if I suggested we do a year or something, he’d just put me off. It would be strange if he turned to me and said, “And what do you want to do today?”
Nicole: [to Nora] You know, I just watched that documentary on George Harrison, and I thought, “Own it. Just own it. Be like George Harrison’s wife. Being a wife and a mother, that’s enough.” Yeah, then I realized I couldn’t remember her name.
[referring to her relationship with Charlie]
Nicole: [to Nora] So this pilot came along. It shot in LA, and it paid so much And it was like there was this little lifeline thrown to me. Here’s this bit of earth that’s yours. And I was embarrassed about it in front of him, but it was also like, “Yeah, this is who I am, and this is what I’m worth.” And maybe it’s stupid, but at least it’s mine. And if he had just taken me into a big hug and said, “Baby, I’m so excited for your adventure. Of course I want you to have a piece of earth that’s yours.” Well, then, we might not be getting divorced. But he made fun of it, and was jealous like he is, and then he realized about the money. And he told me I could funnel it back into the theater company. And that’s when I realized, he truly didn’t see me. He didn’t see me as something separate from himself. And I asked him to say my phone number. He didn’t know it. So, I left. Also, I think he slept with the stage manager, Mary Ann.
[referring to the divorce papers]
Nicole: So I’ll tell Charlie what’s happening, and, Cassie, you then hand him the envelope.
Cassie: Okay. I just get nervous.
Sandra: Well, can you unserve?
Nicole: What do you mean? Like take it back?
Nicole: I think so.
Cassie: You should check.
Sandra: In case we change our minds, or we feel too bad for him.
Nicole: I’m not going to change my mind.
Cassie: Maybe just, you know, in case I do something wrong.
Nicole: Now you’re both just making me feel bad, okay?
Sandra: And we love Charlie.
Nicole: You have to stop loving him, mom. You can’t be friends with him anymore!
Sandra: Charlie and I have our own relationship, independent of your marriage. Just like I’m still friends with Cassie’s ex, Jeff.
Cassie: Are you still seeing Jeff?
Sandra: An occasional lunch.
Cassie: I can’t believe you!
Sandra: And he still wants his camera back, by the way.
Nicole: Listen, nothing can be independent of our marriage right now. I can’t believe I even have to explain this to you. Just be on my side, okay?
Cassie: And stop seeing Jeff!
[after Charlie greets Sandra and picks her up playfully and hugs her]
Charlie: Why didn’t you respond to my last email?
Sandra: Well, your emails are so articulate. I get intimidated.
Nicole: Mom, can you…
Sandra: Now, I’m going to lift you!
[she tries to playfully lift Charlie and both are laughing]
Nicole: Mom? Mom? Mom?
Sandra: Oh. I’m going to write you back now.
[after Cassie has served Charlie with the divorce papers]
Charlie: I feel like I’m in a dream.
Nicole: We don’t have a marriage anymore. I know you don’t want the disruption, but you don’t want to be married. Not really.
Charlie: But I don’t want this.
Nicole: What did you expect was going to happen?
Charlie: I don’t know, I guess I didn’t think it through. But I thought we agreed we weren’t going to use lawyers.
Nicole: I want, I don’t know, I’m trying to say this as undramatically as possible. I want an entirely different kind of life.
Charlie: Let’s wait until you finish this pilot and come back to New York. Let’s figure it out there, at home, together. You don’t need an envelope…
Nicole: Nora’s known for being very fair. We don’t need to do it with envelopes.
Charlie: This is Nora?
Nicole: Yeah. She’s great. I feel like we could be friends with her.
Charlie: Why do I feel like that won’t happen?
[referring to when Cassie had a plate of pie in her hand when serving him the papers]
Charlie: Why did Cassie have a pie?
Nicole: The pie was hers. The pie wasn’t part of it.
Charlie: Are you sure?
Nicole: I mean, what would the pie have to do with anything?
Charlie: I don’t know. It somehow makes it worse.
Nicole: I’m sorry, but the pie was just a pie.
Charlie: So, what do I do?
Nicole: You get a lawyer too.
[as Charlie meets with lawyer, Jay]
Jay Marotta: So you got married here, your kid was born here, and she served you here?
Charlie: Yeah, but we lived in New York. Why? Is there a problem?
Ted: We’ll have to reshape the narrative.
Ted: We need to make an argument that you’re a New York based family.
Charlie: Well, we are.
Jay Marotta: Otherwise, you’ll probably never see your kid outside of LA again.
Charlie: Really? No.
Jay Marotta: It’s very hard to convince the courts to move a kid. As soon as you let your wife and child leave New York, you made life very difficult for yourself.
Charlie: Yes, but as I said, we’re a New York family, that’s just a fact. She’s here temporarily.
Jay Marotta: Then why do you think she served you out here?
Charlie: I don’t know. But Henry wants to go back to New York.
Jay Marotta: No, don’t quote your kid. He’s just telling you what you want to hear. And trust me, he’s telling her the opposite.
Jay Marotta: Look, you need to be prepared for the fact that Nora is going to portray you as a neglectful, absent father.
Charlie: But I’m not.
Jay Marotta: You live in New York. You’re consumed with your work. She and your kid are out here, struggling. Nora’s going to use that strategy. I’m sure of it.
Charlie: But Nicole’s not going to lie.
Jay Marotta: Listen, if we start from a place of reasonable, and they start from a place of crazy, when we settle, we’ll be somewhere between reasonable and crazy.
Ted: Which is still crazy.
Jay Marotta: Half of crazy is crazy.
Ted: You know what people say, “Criminal lawyers see bad people at their best, divorce lawyers see good people at their worst.”
Jay Marotta: Before this is all over, you’re going to hate me and Ted, just because of what we represent in your life.
Charlie: I’m sure you’re right.
Jay Marotta: So tell me the story again. You came out here to see your kid.
Charlie: Maybe I’m not explaining this well.
Jay Marotta: She serves you.
Charlie: We’re friendly, we’re fine. We’re just trying to figure this out.
Jay Marotta: What a b*tch.
Charlie: She’s not a b*tch. Thanks, but this isn’t… We’re doing it a different way. And I can’t even close to afford this. I got to get back to New York. I have a Broadway play and rehearsals.
[he gets up and leaves]
Frank: So, Charlie, what you’re going through now is going to be horrible, but it will be over.
Charlie: Thanks, Frank.
Frank: Another thing.
Frank: F**k as many people as you can right now. Women. Men. Take what I said seriously.
Mary Ann: Can I come over tonight?
Charlie: Mary Ann, it’s too hard now. I just can’t be with anyone right now.
Mary Ann: But we did it when you were married, and we shouldn’t have done it. And now that you’re not married, shouldn’t we be doing it?
Charlie: I’m not not married yet.
Mary Ann: You’re torturing yourself.
Charlie: Just make sure everything doesn’t go to hell. I’m relying on you, okay?
Mary Ann: Fine.
Mary Ann: I wish you’d accept generosity better.
[after Nora calls Charlie to tell him to get a lawyer or risk losing custody of Henry, Charlie meets with another lawyer, Bert, in LA]
Bert Spitz: Getting divorced with a kid can be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do.
It’s like a death without a body. I know, personally I’ve been there four different times.
Charlie: You’ve been divorced four times?
Bert Spitz: Married four times. Three divorces. This last one will stick, God willing. That’s why I graduated into family law, to help people survive this painful time.
Bert Spitz: Here’s how I see it. If we get bogged down in, “Who did this?” And, “Who did that?” And, “I don’t want to pay the two dollars”, it’ll just cost you more money, and time, and emotional stress, and you’ll probably end up with the same result anyway.
Charlie: Right. I mean, I agree with that philosophy. She does too, I’m sure.
Bert Spitz: And I always go with the truth, no matter where that takes us. You know, most people in my business make up the truth so they can get where they need to go. You’re just transactions to them. I like to think of you as people.
Charlie: Oh, okay. Good.
Bert Spitz: And not just you, her too.
Bert Spitz: You know, this can be a really ugly process. But I also believe it doesn’t have to be terrible.
Charlie: I’m glad to hear you say that. Um, I’d love to keep expenses down as much as possible.
Bert Spitz: Of course you do.
Bert Spitz: You should get a place in LA. And get a place near her. It looks better for custody reasons.
Charlie: She’s in West Hollywood. That’ll be expensive. I guess I could rent our New York apartment.
Bert Spitz: Don’t rent it. You have to continue to prove New York residence. And of course, if you have a place in LA, it’s hard to show you all live in New York, isn’t it?
Charlie: So what do I do?
Bert Spitz: I recommend you spend as much time as you can with your son. Many people fight for that time, then they don’t even use it. They just want to win.
Charlie: This shouldn’t be that complicated, right? I mean, we’re a New York family. I think it’s all pretty straightforward. Right?
Bert Spitz: I hope so, yes. I see no reason. You both love your child. You respect each other. Why this shouldn’t be relatively pain-free.
Bert Spitz: I want you to know that eventually this will all be over, and whatever we win or lose, it’ll be the two of you having to figure this out together.
Charlie: Thank you. You’re the first person in this process who’s spoken to me like a human.
[Bert gives Charlie a hug]
Bert Spitz: You remind me of myself on my second marriage.
Charlie: Did you dye your hair again? Is that for your show?
Nicole: No, this is me. It was this way when I saw you before.
Charlie: I know, but I didn’t say anything then.
Nicole: You don’t like it?
Charlie: No, I guess it’s fine. Is it shorter? I prefer longer, but…
Nicole: Oh, sorry, it’s just absurd.
Charlie: Is everything okay?
Nicole: Yeah. Why?
Charlie: You seem, I don’t know, like something is…
Nicole: Everything’s fine.
[after Charlie’s taken Henry trick-or-treating, later he calls Nicole]
[referring to LA]
Charlie: Are you moving out here?
Nicole: Did you find a lawyer?
Charlie: Yes. Henry says you’re moving here.
Nicole: Have your lawyer call Nora.
Charlie: I want to talk about it as us.
Nicole: Who the f**k is “us”?
Charlie: Let’s just get in a room, you and me. That’s what we always said we’d do. It’s not up to them. It’s up to us.
Nicole: My lawyers wouldn’t let me sign anything.
Charlie: It’s our divorce.
Nicole: They say I could later sue them for malpractice.
[on the phone]
Charlie: What am I walking into?
Nicole: What are you walking into?
Charlie: Yes, what the f**k is going on?!
Nicole: I read your f**king emails, Charlie! I read them all.
Nicole: I don’t know, recently.
Nicole: You’re a f**king liar. You f**ked Mary Ann!
Charlie: It was after I was sleeping on the couch.
Nicole: All this bullsh*t about working on us. You know what? I have been working. I’ve been doing the work alone.
[on the phone]
Charlie: How did you read my emails?
Nicole: I hacked into your account, you dumb f**k!
Charlie: I think that’s illegal!
Nicole: Don’t give me this sh*t about being surprised about LA. Surprise! I have my own opinions.
Charlie: How do you even know how to do something like that?
Nicole: Surprise! I want things that aren’t what you want, because, surprise, you were f**king another lady!
Charlie: It was one time! I think you’re conflating two different things. Mary Ann has nothing to do with LA.
Nicole: I am conflating, m*therf**ker! You watch me conflate!
[Nicole ends the call]
[during Charlie and Bert’s meeting with Nora and Nicole]
Bert Spitz: But all of our personal feelings about the two cities aside, we don’t share your assertion that the couple is an LA-based family. It was very clearly their deal that they would go back to New York after Nicole finished her show.
Nora Fanshaw: I’m not aware of any deal.
Charlie: Well, I didn’t get it in writing.
Nora Fanshaw: Charlie, is this like the deal that you made, that you Nicole would spend more time in LA during your marriage?
Charlie: We didn’t have a deal. It was something we discussed. But…
Nora Fanshaw: So it’s a deal when it’s something you want, and a discussion when Nicole wants it?
[after their meeting with Nora and Nicole; referring to Charlie renting an apartment in LA]
Charlie: And I’m doing that because I want to see my kid, not to set a precedent.
Bert Spitz: Yes, but unfortunately, you are setting a precedent. And a judge might look at it that way.
Charlie: What’s the alternative? I stay in New York and never come out here?
Bert Spitz: No, because then it would look to the court like you don’t care about seeing your son.
Charlie: Court or no court? Stop saying “court” and then “never court”.
Bert Spitz: Well, the way this is going, we may have to go to court.
Charlie: Are you aware of how maddening you sound?
Bert Spitz: I am.
Bert Spitz: Listen, if I were representing you…
Charlie: You are representing me.
Bert Spitz: Right, no, of course. No. I don’t see a judge moving this child from California. I think we try and settle today.
Charlie: Settle meaning what?
Bert Spitz: She gets LA.
Charlie: No, Bert. Just, no. I mean, we have to win this.
Bert Spitz: Remember, the win is what’s best for Henry. And if you guys go to court, he’s going to get pulled into it.
Charlie: But if he stays here and I stay in New York, that’s just, then I won’t… I’ll never get to really be his parent again.
Bert Spitz: It’ll be different.
Charlie: It won’t exist!
Charlie: I feel like a criminal.
Bert Spitz: But you didn’t commit any crime.
Charlie: It doesn’t feel that way.
Bert Spitz: If we give on LA right now, and then try to make the best deal possible, I think we can get her to give on other fronts.
[referring to Henry]
Charlie: There are no other fronts! This is the thing! He needs to know that I fought for him!
Bert Spitz: He’ll know.
Bert Spitz: You know what this is like? This is like that joke about the woman at the hairdresser, she’s going to Rome. Do you know this?
Charlie: I don’t.
Bert Spitz: This woman is at her hairdresser, and she says, “I’m going to Rome on holiday.” And he says, “Oh, really? What airline are you taking?” She says, “Alitalia.” He says, “Alitalia? Are you crazy? That’s the worst. That’s terrible. Don’t take that.” He says, “Where are you going to stay?” She says, “I’m going to stay at the Hassler.” “The Hassler? What, are you kidding? They’re renovating the Hassler. You’ll hear hammering all night long. You won’t sleep. What are you going to see?” She says, “I think I’m going to try to go to the Vatican.” “The Vatican? You’ll be standing in line all day long. You’ll never get to see anything…”
Charlie: I’m sorry, Bert, am I paying for this joke?
Bert Spitz: Whatever happens here, it’s temporary. He’s growing up. He’s going to have opinions on the subject. Time is on your side, Charlie. Maybe he’ll do college on the East Coast.
[Charlie looks down as he starts to cry]
[as they’re waiting to go to court]
Nora Fanshaw: We’re mostly finished. Bert and I hammered out ninety percent of the details, and there’s a couple minor things hanging, but it should be easy. And then the judge
makes your divorce official.
Nicole: Oh. That’s good.
[she then sees Charlie walking with Jay and Tony]
Nora Fanshaw: F**k me.
Nicole: What? Who’s that?
Nora Fanshaw: Oh, Charlie shouldn’t have done this.
Nicole: What do you mean? Where’s Bert?
Nora Fanshaw: This means that everything we’ve agreed upon now is off the table.
Nicole: We’ve got LA, right?
Nora Fanshaw: Not with Jay Marotta representing him. This is a street fight now. And I’m going to have to ask for things that we wouldn’t normally ask for. This system rewards bad behavior.
Nora Fanshaw: So while we are willing to be flexible on support, we contend that half of Charlie’s grant money be split between the parties.
Jay Marotta: I don’t see how you can claim that she gets half a grant dedicated to his genius.
Nora Fanshaw: He became a genius during the course of the marriage.
Jay Marotta: Oh, come on, Nora.
Nora Fanshaw: Charlie himself, upon hearing that he received the prize, told Nicole that it belonged to her too.
Jay Marotta: That’s what people say when they win awards.
Nora Fanshaw: Mm. No, he was implying what was true. His genius was an intangible asset built during the marriage.
Jay Marotta: Nora, I like how you refer to Charlie’s theater as a ramshackle downtown dump when you’re arguing custody, but when you want more money, he’s a big, rich, genius Broadway director. You can’t have it both ways.
Nora Fanshaw: Oh, really? Why not? And whether you think it’s fair or not, Jay, the first monetary installment from the MacArthur grant was put into a joint marital account, and thus became communal property.
[quietly to Charlie]
Jay Marotta: F**k. You shouldn’t have put that money in a joint account.
Charlie: There’s not going to be anything left anyway. I’m using it all to divorce her.
Jay Marotta: Nora, I have to say that your account of this marriage takes place in an alternate reality.
Jay Marotta: By suddenly moving to LA and insisting on an LA residence, Nicole is withholding Henry…
Judge: Counsel, please be seated.
Jay Marotta: … alienating him from his father, which has turned Charlie’s world upside down.
Jay Marotta: It amounts to an ambush.
Nora Fanshaw: Withholding, Jay? Really? Alienating? Well, those are fighting words, and it’s simply false and does nothing to further this settlement. Your recap of this situation is outrageous.
Nora Fanshaw: And although California is, without doubt, a no-fault state, it bears mentioning in the accurate recap of this situation that Charlie had had extramarital affairs.
Charlie: An extramarital affair.
Nora Fanshaw: Do you really want me to go there?
Jay Marotta: Yeah, let’s go there.
Nora Fanshaw: Okay.
Jay Marotta: Nicole has admitted to hacking Charlie’s computer, and reading his emails. Which, if proven, is a felony. And, Nora, I don’t think you’d be too happy if I ask Nicole about her alcohol consumption in the evenings.
Jay Marotta: She confided in Charlie, one night recently, having just carried Henry to bed, that she was having trouble standing while walking down the staircase. And from what I understand, this is not an isolated event. So you let me know, Nora, and we will go there as needed.
[Nicole visits Charlie in his rented apartment in LA]
Nicole: You don’t have anything on the walls?
Charlie: I don’t have anything to put on them, except Henry’s art, which is being framed.
Nicole: I can give you some stuff, you know, until you get some things. How about that great picture of Henry on the Staten Island Ferry?
Charlie: Aren’t you in that one?
Nicole: Well, I guess, you could just, you could cut me out.
Nicole: So I thought we should talk.
Nicole: I feel like maybe things have gone too far.
Nicole: I mean, my mom’s taking out a loan against the house to help me pay Nora.
Charlie: I thought I paid Nora.
Nicole: You pay thirty percent of Nora.
Charlie: Well, I’m going broke too, if that’s any help. I’ve just agreed to direct two sh*tty plays, and we can forget putting anything away for Henry’s college.
Nicole: It’s just that up until now, we’ve been able to keep Henry somewhat removed, and this will change that.
Nicole: We have to protect him.
Charlie: I agree.
Nicole: So maybe we can figure something out between us.
Charlie: You remember I said this to you at the beginning?
Nicole: I know you did, but these are different circumstances.
Charlie: I was anticipating these circumstances.
Nicole: Anyway, shall we try this?
[as they try and sort their issues out between themselves]
Charlie: I don’t know how to start.
Nicole: Do you understand why I want to stay in LA?
Nicole: Well, that’s not… Charlie, that’s not a useful way for us to start.
Charlie: I don’t understand it.
Nicole: You don’t remember promising that we could do time here?
Charlie: We discussed things. We were married, we said things.
Charlie: We had a great theater company, and a great life where we were.
Nicole: You call that a great life?
Charlie: You know what I mean. I don’t mean we had a great marriage. I mean, life in Brooklyn. Professionally. I don’t know. Honestly, I never considered anything different.
Nicole: Well, that’s the problem, isn’t it? I mean, I was your wife. You should’ve considered my happiness too.
Charlie: Come on, you were happy. You’ve just decided you weren’t now.
Nicole: The only reason we didn’t live here is because you can’t imagine desires other than your own, unless they’re forced on you.
Charlie: Okay, you wish you hadn’t married me, you wish you’d had a different life, but this is what happened.
Nicole: So, what do we do?
Charlie: I don’t know.
Nicole: Nora says there’s no coming back from this.
Charlie: F**k Nora! I hate f**king Nora telling me I always lived in LA, even though I never lived in LA. How could you have her say those things about me?
Nicole: Jay said them about me too. You shouldn’t have fired Bert.
Charlie: I needed my own a**hole.
Nicole: Let’s just both agree both of our lawyers said sh*tty stuff about both of us.
Charlie: Nora was worse.
Nicole: Jay called me an alcoholic.
Charlie: You pulled the rug out from under me and you’re putting me through hell.
Nicole: You put me through hell during our marriage.
Charlie: Oh, is that what that was, hell?
Nicole: And now you’re going to put Henry through this horrible thing, so you can yet again get what you want!
Charlie: It’s not what I want. I mean, it’s what I want, but it’s what was what’s best for him.
Nicole: Oh, well, I was wondering when you’d get around to Henry and what he actually wants.
Charlie: F**k off!
Nicole: No, you f**k off! If you’d listen to your son, or anyone, then he’d tell you that he’d rather live here!
Charlie: Stop putting your feelings about me onto Henry.
Nicole: He tells me he likes it better here.
Charlie: He tells you because he knows it’s what you want to hear!
Nicole: You’re being so much like your father.
Charlie: Do not compare me to my father!
Nicole: I didn’t compare you to him. I said you were acting like him.
Charlie: You’re exactly like your mother. Everything you were complaining about her, you’re doing. You’re suffocating Henry.
Nicole: First of all, I love my mother. She was a wonderful mother.
Charlie: I’m just repeating what you told me.
Nicole: Secondly, how dare you compare my mothering to my mother! I may be like my father, but I am not like my mother!
Charlie: You are! And you’re like my father! You’re also like my mother! You’re all the bad things about all of these people! But mostly your mother. When we would lie in bed together, sometimes I would look at you and see her, and just feel so gross!
Nicole: I felt repulsed when you touched me!
Charlie: You’re a slob. I made all the beds, closed all cabinets…
Nicole: The thought of having sex with you makes me want to peel my skin off.
Charlie: You’ll never be happy, in LA or anywhere. You’ll think you found some better opposite guy than me, and in a few years, you’ll rebel against him, because you need to have your voice. But you don’t want a voice, you just want to f**king complain about not having a voice!
Nicole: I think about being married to you, and that woman is a stranger to me. I mean, we had a child’s marriage.
Charlie: You’ve regressed. You’ve gone back to your life before you met me, it’s pathetic.
Nicole: People used to tell me that you were too selfish to be a great artist. And I used to defend you. They were absolutely right.
Charlie: All your best acting is behind you. You’re back to being a hack!
Nicole: You gaslighted me! You’re a f**king villain!
Charlie: You want to present yourself as a victim because it’s a good legal strategy? Fine, but you and I both know you chose this life! You wanted it until you didn’t! You used me so you could get out of LA.
Nicole: I didn’t use you.
Charlie: You did, and then you blamed me for it! You always made me aware of what I was doing wrong, how I was falling short!
Charlie: Life with you was joyless!
Nicole: What, so then you had to go and f**k someone else?
Charlie: You shouldn’t be upset that I f**ked her! You should be upset that I had a laugh with her!
Nicole: Do you love her?
Charlie: No! But she didn’t hate me. You hated me!
Nicole: You hated me. You f**ked somebody we worked with.
Charlie: You stopped having sex with me in the last year. I never cheated on you.
Nicole: That was cheating on me!
[as they continue to argue]
Charlie: And you wanted so much so fast. I didn’t even want to get married. And f**k it! There’s so much I didn’t do.
Nicole: Thanks for that!
Charlie: You’re welcome!
Nicole: I can’t believe I have to know you forever!
[Charlie punches the wall in anger]
Charlie: You’re f**king insane! And you’re f**king winning!
Nicole: Are you kidding me? I wanted to be married. I’d already lost!
Nicole: You didn’t love me as much as I loved you!
Charlie: What does that have to do with LA? What?
Nicole: You’re so merged with your own selfishness, you don’t even identify it as selfishness anymore! You’re such a d*ck!
Charlie: Every day I wake up and I hope you’re dead! Dead, like if I could guarantee Henry would be okay, I’d hope you’d get an illness, and then get hit by a car and die!
[Charlie starts crying]
Charlie: Oh, God!
[Charlie falls onto his knees crying, Nicole comes over to him and starts to comfort him]
Charlie: I’m sorry.
Nicole: Me too.
[as Nicole is being coached on her replies for being evaluated and observed]
Nora’s Associate: What are your weaknesses?
Nicole: I’m too precise. I care too much.
Nora’s Associate: Are those weaknesses?
Nicole: Maybe not.
[referring to Henry]
Nicole: You know, he can be an a**hole, and I can get really p*ssed off, and I’ll call him on being an a**hole…
Nora Fanshaw: I’m going to stop you there. When you do this for real, don’t ever say that.
Nora Fanshaw: [to Nicole] People don’t accept mothers who drink too much wine, and yell at their child, and call him an a**hole. I get it. I do it too. We can accept an imperfect dad. Let’s face it, the idea of a good father was only invented like thirty years ago. Before that, fathers were expected to be silent, and absent, and unreliable, and selfish, and we can all say we want them to be different. But on some basic level, we accept them. We love them for their fallibilities, but people absolutely don’t accept those same failings in mothers. We don’t accept it structurally, and we don’t accept it spiritually. Because the basis of our Judeo-Christian whatever is Mary, Mother of Jesus, and she’s perfect. She’s a virgin who gives birth, unwaveringly supports her child and holds his dead body when he’s gone. And the dad isn’t there. He didn’t even do the f**king. God is in heaven. God is the father, and God didn’t show up. So you have to be perfect, and Charlie can be a f**k up, and it doesn’t matter. You will always be held to a different, higher standard. And it’s f**ked up, but that is the way it is.
[as Charlie is preparing a meal for Henry, while Nancy the evaluator is there to observe]
Henry: What is this?
Charlie: Special Meal.
Henry: What are the green things? There aren’t green things in Special Meal.
Charlie: It’s just a garnish.
Charlie: I’ll take it off.
Henry: I don’t want to eat anything it touched.
Charlie: It doesn’t change the taste of anything.
Henry: I might want to be a vegetarian. Mom’s a vegetarian.
Charlie: Is she a vegetarian now?
Charlie: Well, then, you should like garnish. It’s all garnish, vegetarianism.
[he suddenly sees Nancy in the kitchen]
Charlie: Do you ever observe married people?
Nancy Katz: No. Why would I?
Charlie: I was kidding.
Nancy Katz: Oh.
[some time later we see Nicole having a party at her new house]
Nora Fanshaw: So because Charlie dropped his claim to New York, we’re mostly done. Jay’s lost interest, and Ted, his associate, is doing the paperwork.
Nicole: And we’re not taking any money, right?
Nora Fanshaw: We withdrew our claim for the MacArthur, which I think we could have gotten, by the way, and they’re not asking for any of the show.
Nicole: Thank you for everything, Nora.
Nora Fanshaw: You’re welcome, doll.
[makes a toast]
Nora Fanshaw: To your new home in LA.
Nora Fanshaw: And whenever Charlie is in LA, I got the custody breakdown to be fifty-five-forty-five. So you’ll have Henry an extra day every two weeks.
Nicole: I thought we made it equal.
Nora Fanshaw: I tweaked it at the last minute. I just didn’t want him to be able to say he got fifty-fifty, bragging to his friends.
Nicole: But I don’t want to do that.
Nora Fanshaw: Take it. You won.
[after the divorce has been finalized, Charlie is back in New York drinking with his theater friends]
Charlie: The couch was technically hers, pre-marriage. But I mean, it was our couch. It’s not like I was going to buy another couch. But then when it comes time to split, it’s suddenly her couch, and I have no couch. And I’m sitting on the floor is the short version.
Charlie: Oh, I’m sorry. This is all so self-pitying and boring.
Theater Actor: No, come on.
Charlie: No, it’s so stupid. I’m sorry.
Mary Ann: No. No, no, no. It is sad.
[some time later, at Halloween Charlie is back in LA and goes to Nicole’s house and meets her new boyfriend, Carter]
Carter Mitchum: She got an Emmy nomination.
Charlie: She’s a great actress.
Nicole: No, for directing.
Nicole: Thanks. Now I know what you were so obsessed with all the time.
[after Charlie discovers Henry reading Nicole’s list of things she likes about him from earlier]
Henry: Okay, keep going.
[Charlie continues reading]
Charlie: “He could remember all the inside jokes. He’s extremely organized and thorough. He’s very clear about what he wants, unlike me, who can’t always tell. I fell in love with him two seconds after I saw him.
[Charlie starts getting emotional, and we see Nicole standing by the door watching them and crying also]
Charlie: “And I’ll never stop loving him, even though it doesn’t make sense anymore.”
[last lines; after they’ve all been trick-or-treating and she’s offered to let Charlie take Henry home]
Nicole: [to Henry] You’re going to go with your dad, okay?
[Charlie picks up Henry, and turns so that Nicole can kiss Henry]
Nicole: I love you.
Henry: I love you too.
[as Charlie is walking away carrying Henry, Nicole calls out to him]
Nicole: Oh, hey.
[Charlie turns as Nicole runs out and ties his shoelace]
[Nicole smiles and they part]
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