Blue Valentine

The Nominations:

  • Actress in a Leading Role

The Black-and-White:

A review by spacedcowboy

A tough story, Blue Valentine does not offer many moments of relief. Very well acted, great set direction, and a pervasive mood of despair.

Plot synopsis from the Blue Valentine website:

BLUE VALENTINE is the story of love found and lost told in moments past and present.This honest and moving portrait follows Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams who star as Dean and Cindy, a married couple who spend a night away from their daughter in an attempt to save their failing marriage. Juxtaposed with playful scenes that trace their romantic courtship six years prior, Gosling and Williams journey through the brutal heartbreak that comes with fading love and broken promises.

Apropos to the nominations, Michelle Williams very, very much deserves her nod. In a complex and multilayered role, Williams brings in abundance the desperation,  hopelessness and  inevitability of a soul twisted young in a multigenerational dysfunctional family. I’ll admit that I’ve accused Williams of being somewhat monotonic in her previous roles. I need to revisit and rethink. As Cindy, she shows her inner torment, without overplaying or being a stereotype. It’s a tour-de-force performance.

In a similar vein, I loudly commend Ryan Gosling in yet another performance for the ages. For my money Gosling is the best, and most authentic, actor currently working. Talk about a deep dive. Yet again, Gosling invests completely and deeply into a performance that is both captivating and painful to watch. He’s come a long, long way from his days as a Mouseketeer and may be the most talented actor in our generation. If you haven’t seen him in Half Nelson or in Lars and the Real Girl, do yourself a favor, and go discover the real magic kingdom.

One other big kudo for Blue Valentine: the set direction. The films breathes a sense of despair, and the details on the set, in every single shot, take us deeper and deeper into the gloom. Whether it’s Walter’s house, his room in the retirement home, or Cindy’s grandmothers house – with little tins of … stuff that somehow always find a home on top of the cabinets – the set direction is almost another character in the movie. It completes the ambiance, and layers the story. Well done.

I liked the time-jumps, from past to present, and the contrasts they illuminated from the optimism of young love, to the reality of incompatibility. It was an interesting plot device, and one that worked.

Having said the plusses, I must say that this is not a great movie. The movie suffers from a lack of relief. Although we are captivated by the performances, we don’t actually care about the characters. Give us an opportunity to breathe, relate, relax and reflect. Although it is more subtle from the more horrific movies from the modern era, it suffers from the same fault – unrelenting despair. Let us smile and realize that we actually care about these characters, and this story. Instead, Blue Valentine asks us to suffer along with Dean and Cindy, anxiously awaiting, as they are, for relief and the end.

Break up already. Please.

I also question the character arc of our heroes. What was their voyage? What did they learn? How are they really different that when our voyage together began?

Bottomline: good movie. Great performances.

I’d say an acting nod to Gosling was more than well-deserved, and he was robbed to be shut-out.

For Michelle Williams, I think she deserves the Oscar. Her performance was certainly far more complex, nuanced and complete than Bening (The Kids Are All Right), or the monotonic Portman’s descent into madness in Black Swan. I don’t think she will win, but she should.

Similarly, the lack of a nod for Artistic Direction was an oversight. I’m not sure Blue Valentine should win, but the sets were almost a character in this film, and deserve to be in the mix.

One Response to Blue Valentine

  1. […] review of Blue Valentine (and reviews of all the movies we’ve watched so far at the 2010 (Nominated) Movies […]

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