Saturday, February 19, 2011

Blue Valentine ***

Director: Derek Cianfrance
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams
Mike Vogel, Faith Wadlyka, John Doman, Ben Shenkman

Blue Valentine is essentially a twee remake of Revolutionary Road, they both explore the courtships and eventual destructions of two marriages.
In this case it's Dean (Gosling) and Cindy (Williams) who rushed into marriage after an intense love affair and eventually come to terms with the fact that they've become strangers to each other.
The film is edited so that we see the past and present at the same time. Through some ingenious cuts we see the intensity of their initial romance and the decay with which their marriage begins to crumble years later.
This technique, while aesthetically pleasing, provides the film with its major flaw, given that the audience immediately realizes that this was never going to lead to anywhere good.
Their romance is based on lies, youthful inexperience and a life altering twist that takes away some of the 70s-style realism director Cianfrance seems to be aiming for.
It doesn't take an expert to realize that their relationship was doomed from the moment they met, yet the film naively tries to surprise us and them, into discovering how bad things can go from one moment to another.
The editing therefore becomes like a way of torture and Cianfrance reveals a deep pessimism about the idea of love that we have learned from the movies.
His deconstruction of film romance is well intentioned but fails on the grounds that he eventually makes the plot feel absolutely redundant.
The film then is rescued by its two leading actors who give masterful performances. Williams infuses Cindy with a dislikability that few actresses would play with.
As a young adult we see her live joyfully and give in to the irresponsible delights of discovering love for the very first time. It's a pleasure to see Williams turn Cindy into someone who should know better but chooses to go for the fairy tale.
When we see the way she's turned out to be a few years later, Williams has aged in front of our eyes. Her joyful Cindy has become a bitter, resentful woman who is in so much pain that we can almost see it pour out of her skin.
Gosling first plays Dean like the Prince Charming every indie girl dreams of: he plays the ukulele, wears fantastic clothes and has an easy job that helps him pay the bills without compromising his artistic potential.
Later we see he has become a pathetic little creature who loves his wife so much that he's forgotten to love himself. Watching Gosling and Williams play off each other is a delight and their most dramatic scenes ache with a tender acidity that makes us ignore Cianfrance's intention to take this simple tale out of proportions.
Blue Valentine suffers because like its characters it feels like a jaded movie that should've known better. Williams and Gosling provide it with the bleeding heart it needs and resents.


Amir said...

you know, while i liked this movie a lot more than you did apparently, i think your review is spot on.
it does seem to pointlessly emphasize on sad the situation is in the second half of the relationship when the audience obviously knew that was coming.
the only thing is, as oppose to you i don't particularly think that hurts the film.
in revolutionary road, the purpose is different. that film actually tells us "why" the relationship breaks apart.
this one doesn't. as you put it correctly, it was always doomed. it's just that the film doesn't bother with that. he just shows us the beginning and the end of the relationship without focusing on why's and why not's.

but i see why someone would have that problem with the film.

Castor said...

While I agree this movie has a tragic and bleak tone because of how it is structured, would the movie really work any other way? I do agree that the performances are probably better than the movie itself but overall I thought, it was a very good film.

Michelle Williams for Best Actress!

Jose said...

Amir: thanks.
Yeah, besides the acting the film just seems like an unnecessary exercise in sadism. Unlike say Lars von Trier's movies, you don't really leave "Blue Valentine" with a deeper understanding of humanity or even rage, the film is just what it is and doesn't try to say anything larger about anything which is alright I guess...

Castor: dunno. For me the structure was just a gimmick though. said...

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