A Love Story For Our Times

Director Derek Cianfrance soars in a relationship drama that could very well be considered this generation’s “Annie Hall.” Let me explain: “Blue Valentine” traces the beginning and end of the relationship between Dean and Cindy– played flawlessly by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. In 112 minutes we witness the the inception of their relationship and follow it to the inevitable separation.

Ryan Gosling’s Dean is the guy we know all too well. He’s happy not applying himself even though he is presumably capable of much more than his chosen day job: painting houses. Michelle Williams is, in the beginning, smitten by Dean’s live-in-the-moment persona and possibly even sees him as a hopeless romantic who would do anything for her. Through the years Cindy becomes bored by the relationship, expecting more out of life. To complicate this fairy tale further they are presented with plenty of difficulties: a jealous ex-boyfriend, a teen pregnancy–their daughter Frankie, who is actually not even Dean’s. In the climax Gosling channels early Robert DeNiro when he arrives at Cindy’s work, a hospital, drunk demanding they work out their problems right then and there. I guess in tone it’s not that comparable to the laugh out loud antics of “Annie Hall,” but these are different times. People have changed. Relationships have changed. The divorce rate has gone through the roof since the 70s. 

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I can’t say enough about the fascinating performances in this picture but the true genius lies in its director, Cianfrance. “Blue Valentine” was his passion project. This promising new filmmaker employed old school methods of directing reminiscent of John Cassavetes and the earlier work of Martin Scorsese. There’s no fancy camera work here. It’s mostly handheld to compliment the realism portrayed not only in the people but in their environments as well. His original intention was to film the actor’s younger and older scenes years apart but wasn’t able to due to budget constraints. The film was made for a mere 3 and a half million.

Cianfrance wanted the dialogue to feel natural so he had Gosling and Williams, who hardly knew each other at the time, improvise dialogue for the scene when they first meet on a bus. Their relationship in real life developed within the film right before the audience. Before they shot the married scenes the couple shared a home together and lived on the same income their characters would have. It sounds a little hoaky to go through such great lengths but the chemistry was there and the preparation really paid off on screen.


The film garnered a lot of buzz before its release due to the Weinstein’s having to fight the MPAA over the NC-17 rating given to “Valentine” over a few graphic sex scenes. I guess ole Harvey took somebody in a back room and talked them down somehow, as the film was eventually released as R rated, without any cuts made.


What, you don’t think life is sad?

Some people will probably complain that this movie is terribly depressing or ends unresolved, but I don’t think that was the filmmaker’s intention. From what I gather it was just a true-to-life story that started at point A and ended at point B.


A Word on Indie Rock in Movies

One drawback I had with the picture was the trailer. I had been really looking forward to seeing the film after Ryan Gosling made headlines for working with a crew of movers for preparation a year or so before the release. But I wrote it off as a lame hipster movie when I witnessed Gosling playing a little mandolin while Michelle Williams danced on a street corner. This was obviously put together to entice young audiences who liked crap like “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” to want to see the movie. I was pretty turned off. When the glowing reviews started rolling in it helped rekindle my interest. What didn’t help was reading that Brooklyn indie rockers Grizzly Bear did the soundtrack. Needless to say I was shocked when I didn’t hear Arcade Fire jamming out as Michelle Williams was breaking down. I guess you can’t blame The Weinstein company for taking that approach with their promotional campaign. Clearly today’s hipsters are too busy reading Pitchfork reviews and listening to their Kurt Vile 7 inches to know what’s happening in film.

In my eyes indie rock has no place in movies. One would argue that it worked for “Juno”, but did it? Would “Juno” not be the same without those old Moldy Peaches songs scattered throughout? And what about “Where the Wild Things Are?” You can’t tell me Karen O’s score wasn’t distracting.

All bitching aside I really didn’t notice anything wrong with Grizzly Bear’s score. I’m simply shaking my head at the marketing they chose to represent the movie. That being said the trailer for “Shadow of the Vampire” was one of the best I’d ever seen and the movie itself was horrid. Pick your poison.

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