Marriage Stories: Florida Divorce Vs. Hollywood FilmFollowing a 5 to 2 committee vote to proceed with the Guide to a Healthy Marriage, Florida State Senator, Dennis Baxley reiterated his belief that “Marriage is a very public matter.” And with that, the Florida legislature brought Floridians one step closer to state-sanctioned marriage help. Read more about Florida’s Marriage Guide.Another “guide” of sorts made headlines in 2019, Noah Baumbach’s Oscar-nominated film, Marriage Story, starring Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, which examines a family of 3 and how their lives are transformed by divorce. The film looks closely at the many stages of separation and the range of emotions individuals experience during a divorce.What Exactly Makes Divorce Good Entertainment?Marriage Story joins a distinguished list of Hollywood films to portray divorce for a “public” audience. Shedding light on America’s rising divorce rates, Kramer vs. Kramer netted all the major Oscars for its cast and crew in 1979. Yet, in 2020, one must ask whether we are repeating ourselves: “Why would anyone decide to make—or go see—a film about such a painful part of life?Like Kramer before it, Marriage Story brings divorce to life for a new generation—it is the first, or at least most notable, portrayal of Millennials Getting Divorced. Similarly, Florida’s new “marriage guide” will primarily concern Millenial and Gen Z couples to begin with.While Baumbach’s film hits some deeply sad notes, it also portrays a fairly happy dynamic and respect between its main characters. One major strength of the film is that it does not choose sides or portray one spouse as more at fault than the other—in fact, the theme of reconciliation runs strongly throughout. Yet, whereas a Baxley ending would push for the marriage to endure with one or both spouses making concessions (possibly to their detriment), the film reaches a more adjusted conclusion with personal growth at the heart of the resolution.In essence, Mariage Story is saying something about divorce in 2020, but it is also saying something about life in 2020. There are many ways to make life after marriage happy and successful for all parties involved. While the Baxley guide is well-intentioned and even uses fiscal data to make an economic case against divorce, the overall tone of the guide may be more adjusted to a bygone era less likely to honor the rightful independence of each spouse.Watching Baumbach’s film is entertaining, yet it stands as a painful reminder that relationships take work and even then they still may result in a painful breakup. Marriage Story is also a harrowing reminder that life goes on after divorce and that every individual is entitled to live their life in the manner they see fit.This is the very reason divorce remains a legal process in the United States; it cannot be enacted without counsel, due process and judicial oversight. While there is nothing wrong with wanting to help improve the odds for a successful marriage at its outset, the notion that a guide will fix or even begin to address the many factors that can trouble a relationship may be a bit presumptuous. It also casts divorce in a troublingly negative light.It is important to remember that while the events of divorce may be difficult, the end result can be a better life for all involved parties. The immense praise Marriage Story has received from fans and critics is a testament to the power of film portrayal, something a state-sanctioned guide is never likely to achieve.
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