Wine + Movies with Juliana: Volume 4

I didn’t expect to enjoy “Marriage Story.” Actually, if we’re being honest, I didn’t want to enjoy “Marriage Story.”  Something about Scarlett Johansen has always irked me (gasp!), so it wasn’t difficult for me to skip past it while scrolling through Netflix.  It helped that I only associated the male lead as “that guy from Star Wars.” But as the film picked up and the reviews started coming in, it became harder for me to ignore it. Maybe it wasn’t just the somewhat basic, Hollywood-familiar faces that bothered me… it was the movie itself. It seemed too intimate, too relatable, too real. I was scared to watch it.

Fear, if nothing else, is an excellent motivator. So, after tossing and turning on a sleepless night, I begrudgingly opened up Netflix to view what many critics are calling filmmaker Noah Baumbach’s best work to date.

“Marriage Story” opens to protagonists Nicole and Charlie explaining what it is that they love about the other. It’s clear that they know one another very well; they each deeply value the characteristics in the other person that they see lacking in themselves individually. I naively assumed that the director was starting the film with the reconciliation, and that maybe we’d move backwards to see the ups and downs of their relationship. So I was caught off guard when I realized that they were reading pieces that they had written to a divorce mediator. Their marriage is coming to a close- years of hidden resentments and one-sided listening have dissolved their once unbreakable bond.  Nicole is an actress, Charlie a theater director.  A once ideal pairing of muse and artist, the couple is now at odds as they begin the separation process. Nicole has decided that she wants to move back to her hometown of Las Angeles to pursue a starring roll for a new television series, while bringing the couple’s young son with her.  Charlie, fearing that his relationship with their son will be further strained by distance, adamantly disagrees with this decision, and their idea of having a simple, lawyer-free divorce soon goes out the window.

The film dives in to the very raw and human emotions that come with divorce; it is compared to death without a body- a great loss, followed by denial, anger, and grief.  We watch as Charlie and Nicole become the people that they never said they’d be- convincing their son that the other parent is to blame, using secrets as weapons in the courtroom, and generally succumbing to the awfulness and selfishness that emerges from all humans when going through something unimaginable. Throughout this process, Baumbach does a truly incredible job at revealing the flaws of the characters while still keeping them entirely relatable. No, we are not all actresses moving to L.A., or famous screenwriters in New York City, but we have all suffered loss and its varied aftereffects. We’ve all done and said things out of anger and pain that we don’t mean, or maybe that we do mean but never meant to say. Does that make us less worthy of love? Does that make us bad and them good? No. It simply makes us human.

I didn’t expect to enjoy the Aerena Cabernet Sauvignon.  Actually, if we’re being honest, I didn’t want to enjoy the Aerena Cabernet Sauvignon. Something about California Cabernet has never been my particular cup of tea (or glass of wine).  Maybe its because they’re just so big, and excessive oaking has never been my particular style. So it wasn’t difficult for me to pass by this wine when walking through the shop. But when my coworkers started raving about it, it became harder for me to ignore it.  Maybe it wasn’t just the fact that it appeared as a somewhat basic “Cali Cab”… maybe I was scared to admit that I, too, could love a California Cabernet.

Fear has now proven to be the best motivator. So, after much internal resistance (“but I love Pinot Noir! How could I love this wine?!”), I begrudgingly uncorked a bottle of Aerena’s single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, hailing from the Red Hills of California’s North Coast. The bottle opens to aromas of dark cocoa powder, plum, black pepper, cassis, and light oak spice. I naively assumed that the palate might be flabby or too ripe, so I was caught off guard by the softer, elegant palate that followed. Full of black fruits, cocoa nib, and barrel spice, its beautifully balanced and intensely dark in color. The mountain climate and terroir, along with some genuinely craft wine-making skill, come together to create a wine that is full of personality and intensity. Yes, it is a California Cabernet, but its darker and more complex than what you’d expect, in a very similar way to Marriage Story revealing the darker side of a divorce instead of putting on a happy face.

Straight from their website, I learned that Aerena Wines sees their product as a work of art and a celebration of the people behind it. “Marriage Story,” is no different. These are both works of art- they evoke emotion, they make you think, and they make you want to try something new.

Movie Image Credit: Netflix