Blue Valentine

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The best movies don’t end well.  By that, I mean that their fadeouts are bittersweet, ambiguous, or flat-out depressing.  Citizen Kane dies, alone and friendless.  Rick and Ilsa are separated, apparently for good.  Old Yeller gets shot.

Blue Valentine is that kind of movie, and that’s a good thing.  Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams play (superbly) a married couple that would seem to have it all.  Young, bright, and white in America – if these two can’t attain the American Dream, what hope is there for anyone?

Director Derek Cianfrance films his romantic tragedy in a documentary style, which is both a strength and a weakness.  The sense of eavesdropping on private moments lends credibility and depth to the proceedings, and yet ….

Movies similar to Blue Valentine in the past – I am thinking specifically of Days of Wine and Roses and Two for the Road – relied heavily on melodrama.  Alcohol was a major culprit in Roses; infidelity reared its ugly head in Road.  There are no such obvious trappings in Cianfrance’s movie.  Two nice people run up against something much more mundane:  dashed expectations about married life.

I’m sure that mirrors reality for many people, and it suits the realistic tone of the film.  But I wanted something more.  I was watching, after all, a product of the Hollywood Dream Factory.  Where was the stirring soundtrack, emphasizing dramatic highs and lows?  Why were there no villains – human or otherwise – for me to hiss?  Instead of emotional catharsis, I left the cinema with this feeling:  shit happens.     Grade:  B+

 

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Director:  Derek Cianfrance  Cast:  Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, Faith Wladyka, John Doman, Mike Vogel, Marshall Johnson, Jen Jones, Maryann Plunkett, James Benatti  Release:  2010

 

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