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The Unsung Hero of ‘Marriage Story’ Is Julie Hagerty

There are many things to appreciate in Netflix’s latest awards fodder, Marriage Story. Directed by Oscar nominee Noah Baumbach, the film is an honest look at what happens when a couple’s marriage unravels and how they go about getting divorced.

Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson have been nominated for the Best Actor and Best Actress (Drama) Golden Globes for their roles, Laura Dern earned a Best Supporting Actress nom and the movie overall is a contender for Best Screenplay, Best Picture (Drama) and Best Original Score. Suffice it to say, the film has gained a lot of critical and popular traction (despite viewers’ divisive reviews). But everyone keeps leaving out one of the best parts of the movie: Julie Hagerty.

Hagerty, 64, plays Johansson’s character’s mom, Sandra, but you’ll probably recognize her from her many previous roles, like in Just Friends and Instant Family. While one might assume she’d side with Nicole (Johansson) in the dissolution of her marriage, she’s at times seemingly more Team Charlie (Driver). Optically, this may seem like a crappy thing for a mother to do, and maybe it is, but the way Hagerty plays Sandra—mousy but insistent, knowing but naïve, gravely serious but hilarious—is so nuanced I’d be remiss not to applaud her.

Without giving too much away (and I’m not since it’s pretty clear what’s going on in the trailer), Sandra isn’t so sure Nicole should divorce Charlie. She loves Charlie, so much so that she has a nickname for him (“Charliebird”) and tries to lift him off the ground in excitement when she sees him (she can’t). She tries to dissuade Nicole from leaving him and assures her that all misgivings can be remedied. She even goes as far as to help Charlie secure a divorce lawyer when the time comes. She does this while wearing sunglasses indoors, whispering and insisting that they never spoke. It’s how a child would try to conduct a covert mission and it’s so strangely endearing. She has a frenetic energy that would be impossible to deal with if she were my mother but is captivating to watch.

Baumbach’s film may be full of shiny objects (Scartlett! Adam! Laura and her outfits!), but it wouldn’t be the movie it is without Hagerty. 

If movies about divorce aren’t your thing, but you intend on watching Marriage Story in preparation for award season, look forward to Hagerty. She’s a real gem.

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