Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Review: Ryan and Michelle Shine in 'Blue Valentine'

Do you ever watch only the first half of films you don't like the endings to? Like Titanic, until the iceberg hits, or Romeo and Juliet, until Mercutio dies. I like having that option, to watch the happy parts and pretend the rest never happened.

Blue Valentine doesn't give you that option. Director Derek Cianfrance tells the story of Dean and Cindy using flashbacks to a happier time, in stark comparison to the discontent and loveless life they currently live. It is so very effectively done that I found myself craving scenes from the beginning of their relationship, the good times, so I could get away from the exhaustion of watching their marriage painfully deteriorate. This is, I think, what Cianfrance was going for, because you feel what they feel. You can’t help but fall in love with Dean as he pursues her, romances her (something she is obviously not used to), and saves her from her circumstances. But, it's not all romance and passion. You also feel as claustrophobic as Cindy does with Dean in that tacky hotel room. And you feel as hopeless as Dean feels, in love with a woman who simply outgrew him.

Blue Valentine is a realistic portrait of a failed relationship, everything that’s wrong with simply co-existing and mechanically moving through the motions of marriage. Parts of it were physically hard to watch, to see the same two people show so much affection, then act with such disregard and malice towards each other. It was emotionally heartbreaking and both Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling acted with such intense passion. Michelle plays Cindy with such naivity and vulnerability, while Gosling is stellar, powerful, and well, dreamy. While not typical, Blue Valentine is quite the love story. Well, I guess they’ll always have their song.

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