After many days of doing other “delightful tasks,” I finally sat down and watched Blue Valentine. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, given that all I knew was the movie was “critically acclaimed” and the DVD cover has Michelle Williams (Cindy) and Ryan Gosling (Dean) looking lovingly at one another. It turned out I was in for a very emotional cinematic ride.
The movie intercuts the early days of Cindy and Dean’s relationship with their present day relationship. The former depiction is that of a passionate and tender pair who are a delight to watch. The best scene in the movie involves the two displaying their hidden talents. According to director Derek Cianfrance, this scene was entirely improvised, with the actors really showing each other their hidden talents for the first time. It looks very natural and the joy of their respective discoveries is incredibly palpable.
Juxtaposing the youthful enthusiasm and joyous love of this pair with the embittered and pained duo we see years later is almost a cruelty to the eyes and heart. We don’t see the degeneration of the relationship, but we can guess what has taken place and how Cindy and Dean have grown apart.
I won’t reveal more than this, as it is easy to give away too much in describing this film. Suffice it to say, that I was hugely impressed by Blue Valentine. Williams and Gosling give fantastic performances and the dialogue is incredibly real. It is not an easy movie to watch for two reasons, though. First, its realism has a bluntness and in-your-face quality that is almost confrontational. It’s like Cianfrance is challenging his audience to examine their own relationships; to juxtapose in their own minds what they were like when they first met their significant other and how they interact with that same person now. Second, the film is also very honest about the sexuality of its characters and it depicts their physical interactions with the same unrelenting boldness it does all their other interactions. The film was originally given an NC-17 rating, but had it reduced to an “R.” That said, the sex scenes are in no way gratuitous. I didn’t find them offensive in any way and thought they were integral to the story.
So, given all I’ve just written, I think it’s clear that this movie is not for the You’ve Got Mail/Bridget Jones’ Diary fans. However, if realism, rather than escapism is what you’re in the mood for give Blue Valentine a shot, though maybe not on Valentine’s Day.
*So, where am I at in my winning streak? For those of you keeping score, I have won five prizes so far: Tickets to the Talking Stick Festival; Passes to West is West, $100 worth of Dutch cheese; Tickets to an International Dance Day performance; and passes to Something Borrowed, a regular popcorn, and a DVD of Blue Valentine. The approximate total of my winnings is $282.24. I should mention that I have won a $5 off coupon to East Side Mario’s, a free Tim Horton’s coffee with Roll up the Rim, and other percentage off coupons, but I am not counting those, as I don’t really consider coupons a prize and, well, I had to buy a tea to get the cup to roll up the rim, so yeah, that doesn’t count either. I’m quite happy that I’ve basically won one prize a month since I started, so here’s hoping for an even bigger win this month!