That term first came to my mind when, as a child, I’d try to say “stream of consciousness” and end up with “brainflow.” It seems to fit here.

Welcome to the ramblings of my mind. (For now, these ones revolve mostly around films.)

Blue Valentine

Saturday, January 29th, 2011 7:20 pm—Film

Blue Valentine (USA 2010, Drama/Romance), Writers: Derek Cianfrance, Cami Delavigne, Joey Curtis; Director: Derek Cianfrance

“You always hurt the one you love, the one you shouldn’t hurt at all….”

I expected to be gushing pink hearts and flowers after seeing Blue Valentine, but instead I’m just sort of reflective.

Blue Valentine examines Cindy (Michelle Williams) and Dean’s (Ryan Gosling) relationship by crosscutting between the hopeful early days and bitter final ones of their life together. I’ve been eagerly anticipating its release since I read an interview with filmmakers Derek Cianfrance and Joey Curtis last year about the movie’s genesis. Blue Valentine was more than a decade in the making, and involved a hugely collaborative process with its actors, including a one-month period in which Gosling and Williams lived together as a “family” with the actor who plays their daughter.

Now, having finally seen Blue Valentine, I’m somewhat conflicted in my feelings toward it. The film is heavily improvised, which sometimes leads to delicate, wonderfully nuanced delivery, and other times feels a bit self-conscious.

I really like the idea of contrasting the couple’s past and present, and of creating a story from only key moments or glimpses of a life. Cianfrance did a gorgeous job of showing how specific gestures and actions that are still technically the same can come across as sweet and tender in one instance, vile and hateful in another. But on the whole, it felt a little disjointed and I occasionally found myself wishing that it had a stronger narrative structure. Or maybe that the filmmakers had made slightly different choices in the moments they decided to show and omit. (I think Blue Valentine would be interesting as a series of installation pieces in an exhibit, with the various scenes—happy or horrendous, hopeful or hateful—playing out at the same time.)

The moments that work (and most of them do) are so raw, real and loaded with truth that they’re often hard to watch. Both Gosling and Williams are incredibly well served by the intensive process Cianfrance put them through. I’m a huge Gosling fan (Lars and the Real Girl, The BelieverDrive, The Ides of March) and he’s excellent here. But as much as he shines, Williams positively glows; her Academy Award nomination is richly deserved.

In addition to its occasionally flawed arrangement, Blue Valentine left me somewhat unsatisfied because I was expecting a story about how a good love can turn bad. Instead, it was more a story of what happens when two people who are poorly matched get married for the “wrong” reasons. I would be more interested in seeing the evolution of a couple who truly are head over heels and a lovely match to start, but for whom life and psychology get in the way.

Blue Valentine is smart, and lovingly put together by a talented filmmaking team. There’s a lot to like, and it’s cool to see the results of such a dedicated and unorthodox approach to moviemaking. I just can’t shake the feeling that it could have been tightened up a bit to work better as a feature film, making every one of the movie’s moments as impactful and resonant as its best.

“… and if I broke your heart last night, it’s because I love you most of all.”

*            *            *

For LP, GR and MG: Ours will be pink. I promise.

2 Responses

  1. Camille

    hmm… interesting. i think this is the first review i’ve read (although frankly i haven’t read that many) that isn’t totally glowing. i appreciate the observations though and it’s actually making me want to see it even more!

  2. amanda

    hey Cams! always love seeing your comments 🙂 I definitely still think it’s worth watching (no review could have deterred me from going). I feel like I know what the filmmakers were going for, and they did an admirable job on the whole, but it was somewhat uneven and could have used some tweaking… I also found it a bit expository or self-conscious in the few moments when they were trying to show Cindy and Dean’s views on love and why they are what they are. Anyway, still an interesting take, beautifully acted and, for the most part, painfully true to life. (watch out for the medical appointment…)

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