Blue Valentine (Review)

BLUE VALENTINE
(12/29/10; Drama)
Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, Mike Vogel, John Doman, Maryann Plunkett
SCR: Derek Cianfrance, Cami Delavigne, Joey Curtis
DIR: Derek Cianfrance
MPAA: R for strong graphic sexual content, language and a beating.
2 hours
BOX: $9,691,675

This searing low-budget drama is a difficult film to get warm and fuzzy about. It cuts so deep and frustrates on so many intimate levels, most of us would rather just walk away rather than count its virtues.

After all, it’s about the steady implosion of a young married couple told from various stages in their relationship. Cindy (Williams), from a verbally-abusive family environment, is career-driven and practical. Her husband Dean (Gosling) made a difficult choice in marrying her after she got pregnant and has become a hollowed-out shell of a man desperately devoted to his wife, but routinely crushed by her apathy. To reveal more would rob the movie of its surprising details.

Writer-director Cianfrance embraced a wonderfully fluid improvisational process that found his actors living together and growing to love and hate one another – and it shows. It’s a deep-level performance that cannot be faked and, for her descent into emotional hell, Williams was awarded with a Best Actress Oscar nomination.

For my money, Gosling deserved a matching nod. His work is no less revelatory and painful, and I’m not even talking about that hairline. But despite the non-linear structure and intimate performances, there is something too nuanced and precious about the film’s style.

The result is the difference between watching exotic fish swimming free or stuck in an aquarium. (Weinstein Company)

— DENNIS WILLIS

Author: Dennis Willis

Dennis Willis is an award-winning producer, TV host, producer, director, editor (he preferred Avid until a torrid affair with Adobe Premiere, and the rest is history), author and film critic (print and radio). Dennis produced and hosted the TV programs Reel Life, FilmTrip, Soundwaves (1983-2008) and produces the annual Soundwaves Xmas program. He is currently the film critic on KGO Radio in San Francisco, and a member of both the San Francisco Film Critics Circle and the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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