Wednesday, December 28, 2011

At the Movies: Blue Valentine

I waited to rent Blue Valentine until it was 50% off.  Because I like my heartache at a discount. 

Simply stated, it's about a young married couple that has fallen out of love.  Dean (Ryan Gosling) is a house painter, and Cindy (Michelle Williams) is a nurse.  They have one child, a five-year-old daughter named Frankie.  Dean's "the fun one" and an attentive dad, but he drinks too much.  Cindy is a nag who won't let him touch her. This is how we first meet them, a setting that makes it easy to feel sorry for Dean and to wish that Cindy would soften a little.  But then the flashbacks start.  Like favorite photographs, they slip in and out through the couple's present misery, revealing how they fell in love and how they got to be where they are now.  A world of subtlety is unraveled in those snapshots, and it becomes clear that Dean and Cindy's relationship, although once seemingly pure, was disintegrating even as it was being built.  Before even meeting Cindy, Dean says something that foreshadows their demise.  Men, according to him, are more romantic than women because they live their lives resisting commitment until one amazing woman comes along and changes their minds.  Women, on the other hand, are always ready for commitment but weigh their options, choosing to settle down with the man who makes the most money.  Dean says all of this naively, yet is so convincing that even I had to stop and wonder if maybe we women are just a bunch of unfeeling opportunists.  But by the end of the movie, I realized that Dean's words had prophesized the problems that would result between him and Cindy.  He thinks finding the right person, that one amazing woman, is enough.  He doesn't realize that he needs to work at his relationship to keep it going, that's it's not ultimately how much money he makes that will determine his wife's happiness, but the level of emotional support he's willing to give her.  (Sorry to get all Dr. Phil on you, but it's true.)  Knowing this, my loyalties reversed, and I began rooting for Cindy to break free of Dean.  The movie is crafty this way, manipulating your viewpoint to unveil the truth through the most accurate lens.  Watching it is uncomfortable, but then, it's supposed to be.  Blue Valentine, after all, is a dirty-dish-towels-exposed slice of life, not a detergent commercial fantasy.

It's good, though.  Layered and gritty and all of those other things that make you think and feel.  I'm glad I shelled out the $2.99.                     

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