Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Ten Quick Thoughts on...Blue Valentine

1) I really should have realized this flick wasn't coming anywhere near a happy ending when it basically began with a dog escaping from its pen, only to be found laying on the side of the road dead from an apparent car collison. As metaphors for a failed marriage go, that was kind of clear.

2) Michelle Williams is quickly putting the whole Dawson's Creek aspect of her career in the rear view. She has deftly avoided the curse that has struck the rest of her castmates on that show (I will cop to having never bore witness to one scene). As a woman stuck in an unfulfilling marriage to an alcoholic lacking in ambition (is there any other kind of alcoholic?), she is splendid. Still, one gets the idea that she could probably be game for a comedy at this point of her career. Think of her most memorable roles: Ryan Gosling's put-upon wife in this one, Heath Ledger's put-upon wife in Brokeback Mountain, Leonardo DiCaprio's dead wife in Shutter Island. I guess it is better to be put-upon than dead? In any event, she plays Marilyn Monroe in a movie coming out soon. Marilyn Monroe. That can't end well.

3) Gosling, by the way, is certainly an actor to watch. He is terrific in the movie. He is equally believable crying over his dead dog as he is his crumbling marriage. He also has a ton of charisma, which comes in handy when you consider that it has to be the only reason that Williams' character had for marrying his Dean. I mean, this is a guy who, when choosing a spot for a dalliance with his frustrated wife, chooses "the future room," a tricked-out getaway that looked like the set of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Supposedly, this room is at the Radisson Valley Forge? I had no idea!

4) The director of the film is a guy named Derek Cianfrance, someone who I never really had heard of, but again the guy could be someone to monitor. Not so much for his direction or the look of the film. It is pretty standard stuff with no adventurous camerawork. But he also wrote the screenplay, and that I have to give a lot of credit. It may not have had witty dialogue or anything along those lines (and it certainly had holes), but it moves in a nonlinear fashion that never becaomes confusing and naturally allows the piece to end in a contrast that shows perhaps the greatest day of the couple's relationship along with the worst.

5) Now that I have given props to the screenplay, maybe I will call a little bullshizz on it: I know love is a very powerful thing, but really, the moment Dean sits around a table with Cindy's parents and admits to a) being a high school dropout and b) having mommy issues due to a mother who left the family when he was young, she had to run the other way at like 95 miles per hour, no? I mean, I don't care if she is preggers with some other dude's baby and he is ready to take on the role of father. She seemed like a girl with a pretty wise head on her shoulders, minus the unprotected coitus with the wrestler dude, so I found it hard to believe she would go running head-first into that trouble.

6) Another thing that was a little off: I know she is disgusted by Gosling's character due to his lack of drive, but I found it hard to believe that she had such a hard time being able to get it on with the guy once in a while. He still looked like Ryan Gosling, since really the only thing they did to age him was shave back his hairline and give him some really hideous shaded glasses. They didn't even bother fattening him up. Her frigidness toward the guy just seemed a LITTLE over the top. You would think that she would look at it as the only benefit of the relationship and take advantage accordingly.

7) I was really proud of myself for immediately recognizing that the music from the film was produced by a contemporary band. It took me a moment to recollect, but I did figure it out: The music was composed by Brooklyn indie poppers Grizzly Bear, and is mostly comprised of instrumentals and restructurings of songs off their incredible album, Veckatimest.

8) A major deal was made out of all the sex in this movie. It even received an NC-17 rating when it was first released. Just another example of how you can blow up an entire city in your movie, but don't dare show a little boudoir action or you will be accused of gross indecency. Seriously, there's a scene where you see William's backside getting a slight rubdown in the shower. There is a tad bit of what Snoop Dogg would probably call "doggie style" in the scene where the wrestler guy impregnates Williams. And there is even a scene featuring Gosling going...um, south of the border on Williams. But none of the scenes felt incredibly gratuitous. Would you want to watch the film with your Mom? Probably not. Is it something worth making sure the youth of America don't set their eyeballs on it? No.

9) From the moment I realized that Williams ex was a wrestler, I kept hoping there wouldn't be a scene where the wrestler gets all pizzed off and ends up beating the bejesus out of Gosling's character. I mean, the guy was like Job. His Mom left him when he was young. He never got out of high school. He has these slightly naive ideas about the power of "love at first sight." He agrees to marry Williams' character even though he knows she is carrying someone else's baby. The least the director could do is not have the guy get his azz beat by an angry, psychotic, possibly roided-up amateur wrestler. So, of course, he gets his face rearranged by the wrestler. That really broke my heart. Poor fella. So what if he is pounding Budweiser at the crack of dawn. Nobody deserves what this guy went through!

10) Two things I would say about the movie. First, don't even try to watch this flick with your wife or significant other. If your bond is strong enough, it isn't like you will run to a train schedule and take the first Amtrak out of town, but it will certainly give you a lot of things to think about. Second, although the movie had flaws, I think it is a very quality piece. For instance, here I am writing about it three days after having seen it and I am still envisioning it quite vividly. It sticks with you. The subject matter is complicated and thoughtful, the structure is imaginative, and Gosling and Williams give performances of merit. Blue Valentine is a film worthy of your Netflix queue...and your therapist bills.

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