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+
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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