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« More Critics Prizes: Detroit & San Diego| Main| Once Again All Male Director Nominees at the Golden Globes »
Dec 09 2019

Singular Style: Laura Dern in "Marriage Story"

by Cláudio Alves

Some films have overtly brilliant costume design with sprawling wardrobes that call attention to their magnificence at every turn.Others shine in less showy ways, sometimes withholding their potential for sartorial spectacle until the right moment.A stylish coat can alter the way we look at a character.A bold pop of color can transform a scene's emotional tonalities.A singular stylistic choice can make all the difference.

Marriage Storyis a good example of this sort of costume design.Mark Bridges isn't unfamiliar with epic feats of costumery but he knows when to hold back and sacrifice aesthetic splendor for the sake of character building.When it comes to Laura Dern's Nora, a savvy, his work gets a bit showier.This is a woman who knows her looks can be a weapon, even in a world of grumpy judges and boring office meetings.It's only sensible that her costumes are more attention-grabbing than the other characters' outfits…

Depending on who she's talking to and how, Nora calibrates her style.For her first meeting with Nicole, we see this process of fashion maneuvering happening in real-time.She starts the scene more distant and grandiose, wearing a smart jacket with a loud print.As the scene goes on and becomes progressively more intimate, she sheds her jacket and comes down to her client's level with a simple white blouse.之后,在大谈判两国茶ms of lawyers, her pink moiré dress is a show of strength, perfect to intimidate the feckless husband and be a pillar of strength for Nicole.

Fashion as armor, style as a weapon of intimidation or a tool of comfort, the femininity of pink and the power of a simple jacket – those are Bridges' main considerations when dressing Nora for one of her most important scenes.When the quarreling spouses face each other in court, a surprise decision from Charlie's part sours Nora's outlook.She was wearing a neutral jacket, modest and perfect for a sober and amicable separation.As soon as she realizes there will be no simplicity to the proceedings, she sheds the piece revealing another pink confection underneath.The gesture of taking off the jacket is a leitmotiv, once a show of sisterhood and then a power play.

The pink represents another bold color choice that helps visually transform the court case into a battle of the sexes.It also highlights Laura Dern's statuesque figure with darts that contour the fabric around her curves and a few hints of black to make it look like a piece of office-appropriate lingerie.Against Ray Liotta's angry attorney, Dern's Nora looks sexy and glamorous.You can't take your eyes away from her and that's precisely what she wants.What could be a discussion between two lawyers of equal standing, becomes a movie star's monologue with irregular interjections by a fashion-free supporting player.Even before any judgment is passed, Nora already looks like a winner.

Marriage Storyis a great film for various reasons.The beautiful work of the design team is one of them.Hats off to Mark Bridges!

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Reader Comments (20)


December 9, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

JLO is way sexier than Dern

December 9, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne (The Real One)

i find Laura Dern to be so watchable.She just commands your attention, at least in Marriage Story and of course there is her work in Big Little Lies, which was almost handmade for her.

The taking off of the coat or jacket in that scene in the courtroom was sheer genius.

December 9, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterrrrich7

I thought that courtroom negligé was bizarre;Not sure what it was telling us about the character except that a high-powered lawyer doesn’t know how to dress for court, for some reason.

December 9, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDF

People kept saying that Nora is just like Renata because it's the Dern.No, she is a Madeline and Laura will be an Oscar winner soon.

December 9, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterFadhil

Only an extremely expensive rich white attorney could get away with that court attire.

December 9, 2019 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

Overrated performaaaaaaance

December 9, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

Great performance.Knives are already out (in a way that isn't happening for any men in the race...) but Laura Dern being an Oscar winning just seems right.

December 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterArlo

she has an Oscar candy role, but Julie Hagerty was the MVP of MS to my taste...complete scene stealer and lovable to death.

...despite the film being SO misogynist.Oh my God.It was a really, really harmful film...Baumbach whines about his divorce blaming everyone but himself for the failure of his marriage...when Driver's character accepts some guilt, it is always with a "but...".He whines about divorce laws, lawyers, and women's ways continuously but OF COURSE he does not forget to have half the characters call his alter ego, a "genius".LMAO.

Driver is really good, excellent, but the role is basically an easy role for a trained actor, so I do think nom is OK, Oscar is too much.
Johansson, is good, but I thought she was better in Avengers Endgame (sue me)
Dern shows off and makes a character that becomes almost a caricature, she is a sparkling villain, everybody is swallowing her character but I do not think it was specially challenging or what the film would actually require.I love Dern and I am happy she is going to finally win an Oscar, but I just do not like the film or the performance's intention.
Hagerty is fantastic, all heart out, warm, she is a fantastic actress and it is a pity her positive character and performance are being ignored.
Alda is OK, as Liotta.Azhy Robertson portrays a child that basically becomes a plot device, an item for his parents to fight for, rather than an actual threedimentsional character.Not his fault, though, it's Baumbach's

Overall, a 4 out or 10 and the most overrated film of the year, even more so than Tarantino's

December 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJesus Alonso

Laura Dern hotter than Scarlett Johansson, never thought I'd say that.
The actress is specializing in stealing the protagonist scene with striking supporting roles.And, we must agree: stealing Johansson's scene ain't all that hard.Marriage Story is a strictly male view of divorce.There is no other side.The female characters are incomplete compared to the men of the story and that is why Driver stands out, it's his story (Baumbach).A good three-stars movie.

December 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMelchiades

Why she moves so much in Marriage Story?运动的我的意思。没有(merrill Lynch)她不断 overacting

December 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPP

I agree that Marriage Story smacks of misogynism.I seriously wonder how Jennifer Jason Leigh will react to this.Much prefer Kramer vs Kramer.I think the Oscar is Laura's to lose.

December 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJans

You can like what you want, but if you think Marriage Story is all from the male's POV or misogynistic, then you can't watch movies.

December 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMe

@Jans - So portray women smarter and stronger than men is mysoginism now?

December 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPP

I’m a court reporter, and divorce attorneys are the worst by far.I have horror stories of their behavior.Loved this movie and how the ugliness of the divorce process was laid out and how beautiful and humane it was in the portrayal of people growing apart.Every actor was a triumph.Alda was perfect, and the two leads were sublime.The last scene with the kid reading broke me.

December 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDoug

I love Laura Dern, but does she deserve an Oscar for this performance?It's the age-old debate of entertaining vs.artistic.She is so much fun in this.But great acting?Perhaps not.But what Adam and Scarlett are doing in this film is in a whole other realm.Brilliant.

December 10, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

It's flashy truly supporting and it's Dern overdue respected Hollywood daughter.

December 10, 2019 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

Stanning Laura Dern is what I do.It's what I LIVE for...

December 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDavid S.

I like that when we first meet Nora, she fills the frame.Her heels and skinny jeans make her look taller.Nora always seems to be performing.She is like a Kardashian in that she is always "on".Removing her shoes and jacket her Nicole it is almost like Nora is seducing Nicole to agree to Nora's terms.In the courtroom, I interpreted her taking off the coat as "game on" with Ray Liotta- someone who knows her tactics and can actually challenge her.

Also, the comparison of Nora to Renata and saying it is the same performance is just lazy.Nora is who Renata wants to be.

I look at Dern's performance as, again, someone constantly playing.I don't really get a sense of who Nora is because she adjusts her tone, words, and style based on who is in the room with her- compassionate with Nora, condescending with Charlie, and combative with Ray Liotta.Dern isn't giving a bad performance but with this choice, i though Nora was acting all along with Nicole and didn't really care about her on a personal level.This was confirmed at the end when Nora said she got Ncole a better deal when Niocle didn't really want one.The performance is showy and (someone else mentioned this) almost like a stage performance.Again, that is not bad per se, but in the context of the movie I get little sense of who Nora is.

December 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterTom G.

@PP misogyny comes in different shades and hues.I once had a university professor who considers women smart and emotionally intelligent by HIS standards alone, refusing to see others' point of view.Only later did we find out how much he loathes women and has been masking his contempt rather well all that time.Something that I've learnt from that episode is how we can use our point of view to manipulate others' perception and not owning up to the truth at all.
Anyway, let's just agree to disagree.

December 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJans

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