This awards season—and perhaps, really, every season—there seems to be a lot of chatter about Adam Driver. There’s his singing, his height, his hands, his resemblance to a cat. But this year, the thing people seem to care about most (because meme-ing something is a sign of care, no?) is his fight scene with Scarlett Johansson in Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story.
The fight is admittedly one of the better scenes in the movie: Driver and Johansson’s characters, having gone through some exhausting and demeaning divorce procedures, are at the height of their frustration with each other. They finally let out all the cruel, horrible sentiments you wish you could scream at your ex: Johansson yelling, “I can’t believe I have to know you FOREVER,” is particularly great; Driver punches a wall and starts to sob. The actors have been lauded for their performances, and while there’s nothing inherently wrong with the scene, I’m here to tell you that if you’re looking for a magical Adam Driver fight sequence, that ain’t it.
Remember those days when Driver was a breakout star on Lena Dunham’s Girls, playing the kind-of-awful and then at times kind-of-perfect Adam Sackler? (Let’s not forget when he ran to Hannah, played by Dunham, to be with her while she was struggling with her mental health. He got onto the subway shirtless and kicked down her door, all while FaceTiming her!!) I realize liking Girls can be an unpopular opinion, but whatever, I do! And there’s no scene I love more—or think about more—than Driver’s epic fight with Jessa (Jemima Kirke).
It’s the season 5 finale, and the backstory is that Jessa, Hannah’s longtime best friend, has been dating Adam, Hannah’s ex-boyfriend. In the scene, Jessa and Adam become more and more agitated with each other until they finally break into a screaming argument, completely destroying most of their apartment.
Before the fight begins, Jessa tells Adam, “I know that I have principles, and one thing I don’t do is steal people’s boyfriends. But you ruined that. Don’t you see that? I’ll never forgive you. I will never forgive you for that. We could die in the same bed, and I will never forgive you.” (I’m a woman with her own guilty past, and Jessa’s words ring painfully true.) After that comes cursing, insults, and broken objects, including two lamps, a picture frame, a toppled bookcase, a thrown bicycle, and a splintered door.
It is truly chaotic—and done mostly at the hands of Adam—but what’s telling is how unintimidated Jessa is throughout the entire match. She’ll go toe to toe with Adam, even in his explosive rage, proving in a weird, toxic way that maybe they’re meant to be together. Though we as audience members witness no resolution to their fight, we do find them at the end of the episode lying among their own wreckage, having clearly just had sex. The whole event is wild and unhinged, and in my honest opinion, highly underrated.
It’s not that Marriage Story is bad, per se, or that you shouldn’t see it. It’s just that, in comparison, the fight does seem to fall a bit flat. If you’re going to give Adam Driver an award for “Best Performance by an Actor Punching Things During a Fight,” it should be for Girls.