Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Movie with Abe: Blue Valentine

Blue Valentine
Directed by Derek Cianfrance
Released December 29, 2010

It’s difficulty to accurately convey the intricacies of a relationship. A classic film like “Annie Hall” shows the ebb and flow of a romance that often mirrors a rollercoaster ride with plenty of foreseeable as well as unpredictable twists and turns. Grasping the seriousness and intensity of a relationship, especially a marriage, is a different thing entirely. Director Derek Cianfrance’s first feature film in twelve years, “Blue Valentine,” is a moving, heartbreaking portrait of a relationship in shambles, presenting both the pleasant start and tragic nadir of one couple’s union and juxtaposing them to try to figure out what went wrong in between.

The devolvement of the relationship between Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) isn’t meant to come as a surprise. The way their lives currently stand after six years together is shown at the beginning even before the two meet for the first time, and therefore their fate is inevitable, and it’s instead a matter of piecing together just what happened in the time between those two states. The start of their romance is almost surreal and somewhat happenstance, based on a brief exchange of glances that sticks with both parties, especially the determined Dean. That blissful, carefree happiness is even starker when compared to the gritty, rotten state of affairs six years down the road.

“Blue Valentine” is an extraordinarily authentic film that doesn’t try to sugarcoat or dampen anything about how Dean and Cindy interact. It’s that fearlessness that initially earned the film an NC-17 rating, something which the filmmaker and stars objected to strongly. Cianfrance said that they “tried to take a responsible approach to sexuality” and that “sex scenes should be treated in a raw, unflinching way.” The NC-17 rating greatly limits where the film can be seen, says Williams, and, Cianfrance believes, takes the choice away from parents. He sees his film more as a “cautionary tale rather than sex sensationalized.”

“Blue Valentine” is about two people in a relationship, and therefore it’s extraordinarily important to have strong performers in the lead roles. Gosling, who has delivered emotionally wrenching performances in films like “Half Nelson” and the underrated “The United States of Leland,” undergoes a monumentally impressive transformation from eager young suitor to hard-hearted, coarse slacker husband. He’s almost unrecognizable in the present-day scenes after seeing his optimistic smile in the film’s flashbacks. Williams also has a marvelous energy and warmth in the scenes that take place at the beginning of the relationship that is completely gone in the future version of herself. It’s an astonishing, brutally realistic vision of how time (and a child) can change a couple. It’s hard to forget some of the earlier moments, such as the first magical night that the youthful duo spends together singing, dancing, and laughing, and seeing what they’ve become only a few years later makes that initial meeting all the more moving.



Lanalizioso said...

I'd like to contest your B+ to at minimum an A.

Movies with Abe said...

Okay. Tell me why. Make your case!