Laura Dern Explains Why Marriage Story Lawyer Nora's Clothes Are So Key To Her Character

Laura Dern and Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story
(Image credit: (Netflix))

Wow, were we blessed with Laura Dern performances in 2019! It came in riches between her return as Renata in Big Little Lies on the HBO series’ second season and in the recent box-office holiday winner, Little Women from writer/director Greta Gerwig. All of Dern’s work is receiving award attention during this season, namely with her supporting role in Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story. Check out the actress talk about her latest performance in the Netflix hit:

In Marriage Story, I play a divorce lawyer named Nora Fanshaw. She uses fashion to convey power. We knew immediately that she definitely always wore very high Christian Louboutin pumps. And the physicality of always showing my arms and breasts informed the character. Almost all of the time she’s kind of touching herself.

Oh, interesting! If you’ve seen Marriage Story, these details are certainly present in the divorce drama but not always thought of as intentional as they are. Scarlett Johansson’s Nicole is an actress who has recently moved back to Los Angeles to pursue a career in television, when someone on set gives her Nora’s card to seek the lawyer out as she deals with her impending divorce with Adam Driver’s playwright, Charlie. (The Kylo Ren actor is having quite a year, isn’t he?)

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Nora is certainly a distinct character many will now associate Laura Dern with. She’s a clever and take-no-shit lawyer who gives the “shark” stereotype meaning. As the Jurassic Park actress explains to W Magazine, Nora asserts herself through her expensive clothing and shows off a sense of sexuality in her demeanor. But did the jolly Dern like her character? In her words:

I did not have to like her. Divorce lawyers represent trauma, and that’s hard to like. But I did empathize with her: She wanted to represent women who’ve always gotten the raw end of the deal.

Laura Dern described Marriage Story as a mix of romance, tragedy and at times a horror film. Her own famous parents went through a divorce when she was eight and Dern separated from her first and only husband back in 2013. It’s interesting how clothing informed her character and she certainly loved playing Nora in the movie. Here’s what she told the Los Angeles Times:

Oh, yeah. The script was perfect. Flawless. Her red high heels are written into it. But playing a woman in a position of power, who’ll never lose her cool — was like, crazy. It’s wild to play that kind of agenda without insecurity.

The high fashion tendencies of Nora the lawyer was part of Noah Baumbach’s script, along with some sharp script writing from the Frances Ha filmmaker. Marriage Story has recieved high praise from critics and audiences alike – including the Netflix film being nominated for six Golden Globes, including a Best Supporting nod for Laura Dern.

Netflix films such as Marriage Story certainly signal an upgrade in storytelling from the streaming service in recent years. Along with the divorce drama, Dolemite Is My Name, The Irishman and The Two Popes have also received high acclaim. Check out the best Netflix movies of 2019 and where Marriage Story lands on CinemaBlend’s top movies of this past year.

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.