Thursday, May 26, 2011

Netflix This:

Blue Valentine
     Realism is unbelievably important when making a good film about the highs and lows of a marriage or relationship. To raise above the general bullshit chick-flick films about empowered women and princely men, a filmmaker must tap into much deeper emotional wells to make sure that the viewer relates to the man or woman--the good aspects or the bad. I'm talking about the tiny things that occur during an argument, a joyous occasion, or spontaneous sex: a disappointed look that hurts much worse than a punch to the head, an exclamation of tearful laughter, or the slight breath that escapes during a moment of pleasure/pain. Blue Valentine, a film by Derek Cianfrance and starring the great Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, succeeds not only because the wonderful actors involved, but particularly because of these small moments that truly make you feel like you're witnessing the full spectrum of events in a relationship, including make-ups, break-ups and cunnilingus.
     The film basically portrays a marriage that maybe wasn't meant to be. It isn't told in chronological order, so the scenes skip between before, after and during the courtship. Blue Valentine starts off close to the end chronologically, and it's a great way to begin because of all of the questions that are raised: you see, normally we see Gosling as a hip, slick, well-dressed gent in nearly all of the films he is in. But from the first moment we see him in Blue Valentine, he's chubbed up, has a receding hairline, wears glasses that resemble a pedophiles, and--best of all--wears a black sweatshirt with a picture of an eagle on it, similar to something a 5th grader or a mildly-retarded amateur bass fisherman would throw on in the morning.  Clearly, the love between Dean (Gosling) and Cindy (Williams) is not what it once was. They have a daughter, and are just going through the motions, with Dean being a house painter who starts drinking The King of Beers around 8 A.M. on weekdays, and Cindy working as a nurse with a sketchy Doctor co-worker. The film then jumps back in time from there, depicting many events throughout their once loving now hating relationship.
     This film works much better than other similar films because of one reason (a reason that causes all of those little realistic moments that the viewer can relate to): the improvised nature of the script and the film in general. Much of the film was unscripted, with Gosling and Williams improvising their dialogue between each other on many occasions. Many of the fights seem extremely honest and real (and may be tough to watch for some people); for instance, there is a great scene that includes an incredible back-and-forth between Dean and Cindy about a former lover that Cindy sees in a liquor store that is especially poignant. Also, one of the better scenes of the entire year of 2010 involves Dean and Cindy both losing their shit inside Cindy's workplace. There's a reason for this naturalistic approach: prior to filming some of the more intense fights between the couple, the director had Gosling and Williams rent a home for a period of time and only have the money that their character's income would produce. They had much more time to represent a real couple with real problems than many other actors.
    One of the small problems with the film deals with the question, "what exactly went wrong?" Maybe it's my sexist subconscious speaking, but I feel like Dean didn't really do anything wrong to deserve the hatred that Cindy feels for him in specific scenes during the movie. And if you agree with his point of view, it's hard to see what more he could do. Blue Valentine, although clearly about a relationship, can more specifically be described as a cautionary tale about some people who can just, simply, fall out of love. The excitement that is felt at the beginning of a relationship can quickly morph into something more destructive: the slow decline of hope of what is still to come.

No comments:

Post a Comment