Friday, January 14, 2011

"Blue Valentine" - Not for the Faint of Heart

I saw "Blue Valentine" a couple of days ago with my daughter, Julia.  Honestly, I wasn't sure I even wanted to see this film after reading about it.  It didn't sound like a bundle of fun to watch a marriage collapse.  But, being the film nut that I am, I figured if I can watch a film about a man who cuts his own arm off and come out of the theatre feeling completely enriched and full of hope, then maybe this won't be so bad.  I was wrong.

"Blue Valentine" directed by Derek Cianfrance and co-written by Derek Cianfrance and Cami Delavigne, is the story of Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) and their little girl, Frankie (played by the amazing Faith Wladyka.)  The story of their courtship and subsequent marriage is told in alternating time periods, ranging from before they meet until their marriage disintegrates.  Dean is a simple man.  He is a high school dropout from a broken family who is just looking to work, drink and love.  Cindy is a slightly more complex person in that when we meet her she is attending college hoping to become a doctor.  However, she also comes from a broken family.  Her parents are still together but her father is emotionally abusive and her mother is completely passive.  From the conversations at the dinner table, it's clear the parents have little idea who their daughter really is.  Cindy has just ended a disastrous relationship with a fellow college student when she meets Dean at a retirement home where her grandmother lives.  Dean is working as a mover and has just helped an old man move into the home.  Dean shows his sensitivity by taking the extra time to set up the old man's room with his personal belongings so he will feel at home and comfortable.  As he's setting up the room, he sees Cindy through the door of her grandmother's room which is across the hall.  From there, he is convinced this is love at first sight and eventually convinces her to see him.  We are then thrown forward in their life to the present where we see Cindy working as a nurse, having had to give up her dream of being a doctor, and Dean is a house painter who is a wonderful father to their daughter but has no ambition to do anything but work, smoke, drink and play with Frankie.  The story of what unfolds between when they meet and the heart-wrenching scene of their final break up, is one of love on the rebound, loneliness, need, passion, family crises, and marrying for all the wrong reasons.  Cindy and Dean are a couple who are thrown together through circumstances and try to make a life together but they never quite know each other as well as they should.  Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams play their roles with wonderful authenticity, and that is why this film is so disturbing and upsetting.  You feel as if you are watching an actual marriage.  However, I do feel that the dialogue was not as true to life as it could have been.  It felt forced at times and did not accurately portray how real people speak to each other.  And yet, the raw emotions, and even the way Ryan and Michelle dress, bring a truth to their portrayals that will move you.  But, in the end, I left the theatre feeling defeated and just very, very sad.  

This film has already been nominated for many awards and I'm sure we'll see it listed when the Oscar nominations come out, however, I don't feel it was one of the best films of the year.  It has some of the best acting of the year but, overall, I feel there are other films more deserving of a Best Picture nod. 

*A side note:  this film was originally meant to be shot and finished in 2008 but was delayed because of Heath Ledger's death out of respect for Michelle Williams and their daughter, Mathilda.

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