Toward the end of best picture Oscar nominee “Marriage Story,” writer-director Noah Baumbach’s astute and wrenching tale of a couple navigating divorce, ferocious lawyer Nora (Laura Dern) lets loose with a powerfully frank monologue that exposes society’s lopsided standards for mothers and fathers.
Oscar nominees Baumbach (original screenplay, producer) and Dern (supporting actress) spoke with The Envelope about their collaboration on that key scene, for which Dern contributed perhaps its brashest line, unfortunately one that’s unprintable here.
Baumbach: I was talking to Laura about the part of Nora and she had speculated, “Why do you think she got into this business [family law] in the first place?” And she was saying maybe she got into it for the really pure reason of wanting to defend and protect people she felt were at the mercy of the system and particularly women.
Dern: She was going to represent the underrepresented: Mothers who are so horrifically measured up against fathers. She was going to be a female shark in a male-dominated profession… She was going to sort of use who she was as a woman to call out the foibles of the system. And in this scene she says all of that — and she also breaks down the truth.
Baumbach: I had this idea it’d be great to have [Nora] express something at a certain moment that kind of can take her back to her own roots as well. So I wrote this monologue, but it also coincided with this notion of where we are in the story at that point … the practice interview. And that gave me the opportunity to work in Nora’s monologue in an … organic way. I wanted to give Laura something she could kind of tear into.
Dern: It’s just fascinating how mothers and fathers are measured differently … [even] by their own children. What we want from a mother is different than what we want from a father, what we expect. What movies tell us we should expect from our mothers is different than fathers. It’s all changing now, but it’s fascinating.