‘Marriage Story’ Editor Jennifer Lame on Cutting Key Scenes With Noah Baumbach

Framing The Scene: Editor Jennifer Lame Talks About Creating Balance in 'Marriage Story'

'Marriage Story': Jennifer Lame on Editing
Courtesy Netflix

Marriage Story” marks Noah Baumbach’s fifth collaboration with editor Jennifer Lame. The collaboration and relationship has grown and evolved since the two first started working together on “Frances Ha” in 2012. Back then, Lame was left to work in New York while Baumbach was off working on another project. He’d come back at weekends to give Lame editing notes.

For their latest collaboration, “Marriage Story,” Lame came in early. “We were editing back in the script stage,” she says.

Starring Adam Driver as Charlie and Scarlett Johansson as Nicole, the film is a blistering look at a relationship’s end. For both Baumbach and Lame, the key was to make sure both stories were told. “I just wanted to make the journeys feel fair to their experience,” Lame explains.

Lame frames key scenes in the film, looking at Baumbach’s approach to capturing the emotional balance in the art of the cut.

Opening Montage:

Noah and I have done a few montages together. It’s something we both love doing and this was a really fun opening. Noah worked on it writing-wise for a while. We tweaked it in terms of what was going to be shown and it was something we talked about a lot.

For Nicole, we wanted to capture her love for family and introduce who she is. Charlie tells her story and how she gave up her theater work to be with him. In Charlie’s section, she talks about things that are perfect and annoying. They’re love letters to each other and if you listen to the tone, there’s something telling about what’s going to unravel.

The great stuff, the compliments are all there, but so are the problems. It’s such a beautiful sequence that shows the love story, but underneath it all is this love story that’s coming to an end. It’s not Noah tricking the audience. I think it’s a really smart way to present a situation without having to show too much. It is such a layered sequence. That scene was challenging and exciting to cut because it had to feel like a love story montage, but it’s not necessarily a love story. Randy (Newman) gave us music early on, but I cut it without music at first. It was important to cut the voice-over first.

Charlie Gets Served

The challenge of that scene was to make it fun and to keep it funny before that devastating moment where Charlie gets served with divorce papers. I’m a huge fan of Julie Haggerty, and I remember getting the dailies for that scene. I cut so many different versions. What I wanted to do was maintain the humor from the raw dailies. When he gets served it hits this devastating moment. I remember how devastated I was watching Adam’s dailies when he got served. It was fun creating this comedic moment, but then when he’s served, I wanted to make sure it was really felt and didn’t want the audience still laughing. It was fun to have those two sequences next to each other, going from humor to that devastating shot.

Charlie Does Sondheim

I wanted to watch those dailies again. I watched them and I didn’t want to edit them. I remember watching all of those dailies. I knew from the seven that came in which one was the best.

For a while, we’d cut to some reactions as he’s singing. As it got later in the process, we decided to not cut it up and just let him sing. It’s such a counterpoint to Nicole’s monologue in the beginning. So, once we reached that decision in editing, we decided to not cut and to stay with him. Adam was so good, he did that in one take.