Behind the Sounds: Noah Baumbach and Randy Newman on ‘Marriage Story’

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Nicole (Scarlett Johansson), Charlie (Adam Driver), and their son in “Marriage Story.” Photo credit: Wilson Webb.

Director Noah Baumbach’s Oscar-nominated film “Marriage Story” is a gripping take on divorce. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson play a couple divided over their careers, personal growth, and the wants and needs of their young son. The deeply cutting, emotional scenarios are enhanced by the film’s score, written by Oscar and Grammy-winning
composer Randy Newman.

Baumbach says that after working with Newman on his film “The Meyerowitz Stories,” he hoped that they would work together again: “ I felt like this was an opportunity to work with him, both to develop what we had started, and also to work in a different way than we did on Meyerowitz. With this one, when I was writing, I really called out for an orchestral score.”

Newman says their collaboration was unlike most relationships he’s had with directors in the past.  “I’d play things on the piano, and sometimes Noah was there. He was a more active participant, a creative participant than most directors have been, in that he had cues that he would like, and he would use it in another place,” Newman says. “It doesn't usually happen, and it doesn't usually happen that someone's right there in the room when you're mucking about with it.”

Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) on the subway in “Marriage Story.” Photo credit: Wilson Webb.

The film’s score is performed by a small orchestra using string and woodwind instruments. It’s minimalistic and repetitive, relying on what’s happening onscreen to evoke emotions. Many of the songs end abruptly. Newman says he made that choice to mimic the plot.

“The story doesn't resolve itself until the very end,” he says. 

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Larry Perel


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