“In my experience… the prettier a girl is, the more nuts she is, which makes you insane.” – Dean
Far more accomplished than I first gave it credit for. Blue Valentine (2010) portraits the acrimony, and disintegration, of a young married couple besotted with flashbacks of their poetic enchantment in their beginning. Why might you want to see this, you ask, it sounds so unpleasant? Perhaps it will trigger recall of all the toxic relationships of your past, and you will ask yourself with a new evolved sense of self-recognition, “Why did I put up with that at the time?” or perhaps, you will consider with eerie admittance the awful relationship you are in now, and you need a good prodding to escape from the trap you’re in.
I have always recognized Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams as method actors, but on my second viewing I really noticed their brilliance of getting into flawed, self-sabotaging personalities. I might have thought the movie was meandering, too, in my first viewing. Now I see it more clearly: In the present, it depicts the final three days of their marriage, and then goes back in episodes to depict the optimistic beginning of how Dean and Cindy met. Going to the “Future Room” at a sex motel to patch up a marriage is not going to work when one of you doesn’t feel like having sex.
They meet in a convalescent home while visiting old folks. Dean can’t stop thinking about Cindy, then he runs into her on a bus, and goes full-throttle into a series of pick-up lines. That works. They make love. But Cindy finds out she’s pregnant from her previous boyfriend, the kind of guy who doesn’t get why he was dumped (Hey dude. Saying “What the f&#% is your problem” is not a relationship fixer.) Dean will marry Cindy even if it’s not his kid, yet it’s so apparent that not being the biological parent bothers him.
In the present, it doesn’t occur to Dean that he’s married, has a kid, and has a drinking problem that should have been solved before they tied the knot. Cindy is irritated that he so casually throws away “potential” at growing as a human being. But Dean is happy moving furniture and painting houses. Dean loved at one time that Cindy was a nurse, but that doesn’t seem so true after he threatens her job security.
I said in a previous review that I admired “Blue Valentine” immensely but that there is a limit to how much you can love the movie because Dean and Cindy are idiots. Well, in hindsight, I change my opinion slightly. Decent people can turn into idiots when they’re trapped in toxic love. It’s not a good sign when Cindy rejects Dean sexually, and Dean rejects any respect for Cindy’s job. Marriage counseling might have salvaged something, but these two create a portrait of all the things not to do if you want to save a relationship.
The artful cross-cutting, penetrating and wounding dialogue, mood-altering light design is the work of young filmmaker Derek Cianfrance. His new film “The Place Beyond the Pines” opens in two weeks and it is the kind of triumph that cements his status as one of the most exciting new filmmakers on the scene. When I saw it I knew I had to revisit “Blue Valentine” again right away, and I see now that the film has a fresh, immediate relevance to its subject. With these two films, I’m already excited to see new Cianfrance films like I look forward to P.T. Anderson, Van Sant or Payne. He’s got me that primed.
Note: I bumped up my grade from 3 to 3.5 stars upon my second viewing.
112 Minutes. Rated R.
DARK DRAMA / PSYCHODRAMA / FALL MOVIE
Film Cousins: “New York New York” (1977); “Revolutionary Road” (2008); “500 Days of Summer” (2009); “Goodbye First Love” (2012, France).