Title: Blue Valentine
Director: Derek Cianfrance
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, Mike Vogel, Faith Wladyka
Lately, there’s been a paradox happening in films. For the last few years, critics and film enthusiasts complained how they were missing the days when a film would take their time with a story. Characters would be fleshed out and the focus would center around the trivial moments of the story. Just imagine if Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen tried to apply this practice. It would be delightfully terrifying.
So Blue Valentine comes in and actually takes a shot at painting the entire picture. A detailed back story on the two main characters is executed and the audience will learn just about everything they need to know. That said, cliff notes would have been sufficient this time around. By minute 65 of 120, one will be screaming to end this depressing tale already.
Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) are a married couple living in a small-town in Pennsylvania. They have grade-school daughter named Frankie (Faith Wladyka) and own a moderate sized home. Dean begins his day with a cigarette and a beer before heading off to his job as a painter. Cindy is a medical assistant at a practice. The flame of love is obviously flickering between the two of them. Yet this hasn’t always been the case. As the story jumps back to the time they first met, highlighted moments of why they chose to marry each other are on display. Dean was doing satisfying work and Cindy had dreams of becoming a doctor. So where did things go wrong?
It’s tough to tell when, but some major disconnect clearly happened. At the present time, Dean “forces” Cindy to take a getaway vacation at a themed hotel for lovers. You know (or maybe you don’t), the place where the rooms have themes such as Cupid’s Playhouse or Camelot (really wanted to switch out the ‘a’ and insert a ‘u‘). Anyway, the natural chemistry that Dean and Cindy once had – and is constantly shown in extended flashback sequences – has fizzled out and the weekend backfires. From there, Cindy begins to rethink her life while the extremely frustrated Dean tries to convince her to stay in the hopes of keeping the ship together. In the middle of all this, and the one thing they both can agree on, is their daughter Frankie. Yeah, this one’s a real upper.
Of course, the goal is to capture the realistic life that many people go through. And it does for the most part. Everything shown in this flick does really happen. But that doesn’t make it an entertaining or even a thought-provoking story. What the director should have thought about is cutting out a decent portion of one of the crossover storylines. The “flashback” scenes are given just as much screen time as the present day moments. Instead of 50/50, it should have been 75/25. Unless someone can personally relate to this flick, the audience will not really care to explore this relationship after the one hour mark. Although, the most talked about scene – which revolves around the NC-17 rating – comes up in hour number two.
For as marvelous as Gosling and Williams were in their roles, it just isn’t enough. As the story unfolds, it will fail to keep most audiences engaged. Much like the couple depicted on screen, the audience will slowly drift apart from the story. A few scenes are very compelling and the natural transitions of Gosling and Williams – in projecting a wide range of harsh emotions – is a pleasure to watch. However, the trivial moments fail to do anything except state the obvious.
Overall, Blue Valentine is aggressive in its approach despite a dull pacing. In writing, sometimes a story only needs to be a few pages to get the point across and capture the reader’s attention. There’s no need to stretch for a novel. Perhaps this review required just four paragraphs instead of seven (you tell me). Point is, this particular story didn’t require a two-hour extrapolation. One will love the raw performances by the two emotional leads and maybe that’s all they will need. This guy (me), was literally talking to the screen using a raised voice, pleading for this to end already.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Blue Valentine is rated R (originally NC-17) and opens in expanding markets on December 29th.
Reviewed by: Joe Belcastro