#1  
Old 01-18-2011, 03:42 PM
Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine

Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:

http://www.examiner.com/movie-in-ric...blue-valentine



http://www.examiner.com/movie-in-ric...blue-valentine

Blue Valentine (2010)

Derek Cianfrance’s “Blue Valentine” is best described as a less interesting version of the recent “(500) Days of Summer.” There are, of course, a few big differences, but the main structural concept of telling the story out of order is almost the same. Instead of following a relationship that never gets passed the dating stage, “Blue Valentine” follows one that involves marriage and a child. In order to explain these characters, the film is told in two different time periods, one at the start of the relationship, and another at the inevitable end.

It opens with the couple, Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams), and their daughter, Frankie (Faith Wladyka), getting ready for their day. From the opening scene, we can see that this is late in their marriage, and already we can see that things are not going particularly well for them. She is a nurse, he is a painter, and they both love their daughter very much, but that is all that seems to interest them at this point in time. In an attempt to liven things up, Dean suggests that he and Cindy go to a theme motel, but by this time, it only seems like a matter of time before their relationship comes to an end.

The film mixes in flashbacks of how they first met. Dean used to work at a moving company, and while moving an elderly man’s belongings into a rest home, he catches sight of Cindy, who is there visiting her grandmother. Dean falls in love at first sight and decides that he must try to be with her, so he goes back to the rest home in order to find her, and ends up meeting her on the bus ride home. The two seem to hit it off immediately, and so begins a child-like relationship of two people deeply in love, well before their eventual troubles begin.

While the film does have its interesting moments, it felt like there was something missing throughout the entire movie, and, in fact, there was. We see how the relationship started and we see how it came to a close. So what happened to get from point A to point B? That’s exactly what’s missing. What happened to these characters to make them drift apart this much? Their love seemed so solid in the beginning, but by the time the last few weeks of their relationship roll around, they are already on the verge of ending it.

This is why the characters never seem as fully realized as they should have been and why the film never really draws the audience into their predicament. We don’t know what happened to cause any of this, only that they once loved each other and now things aren’t going so well. The writers could have been trying to be deep and say that, in relationships, the answer is never that clear, or that love can disappear without a trace. If this is their answer, they should have realized that it wouldn’t really make for an engaging film.

Saving the film from complete oblivion were the excellent performances from Gosling and Williams. They both have to play two ends of a relationship, which can’t be easy if the middle section is not told. Gosling first plays Dean like a boy having his first crush, then transforms his character into a man who is trying to put together the pieces of a failing marriage that seems to have lost the love they once had.

Williams plays Cindy as someone who, at first, is taken aback by Dean’s straightforward approach to her in the rest home, but quickly sees that his love is for real as hers develops just as fast. A few years later, she sees what Dean is trying to do by taking them to the hotel, but it just doesn’t seem to be enough to fix whatever happened in their relationship over the years that we didn’t get to witness any part of.

What would have inevitably been in that missing section is the character development that is required to make the audience care about how the relationship is going to eventually turn out. By jumping so late into the relationship, we can already tell how it will turn out, so we basically end up riding it out as it falls apart. Instead of just merely riding it out, the audience should be engaged in the story and emotionally invested, but this never ends up happening.

What we end up with here is 2/3 of a story that consequently feels incomplete. It obviously wanted to be something like “(500) Days of Summer” in terms of structure, but the writers just didn’t know how to get up to that level. That film felt like a fully-rounded story despite telling only small portions of the relationship, but the key was that it was throughout the entire relationship, not just beginning and end. “Blue Valentine” is to be commended for the excellent, realistic performances, just not so much for the story. 2.5/4 stars.

Last edited by Hal2001; 01-18-2011 at 07:01 PM..
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  #2  
Old 01-18-2011, 03:59 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hal2001 View Post
Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:

http://www.examiner.com/movie-in-ric...blue-valentine



http://www.examiner.com/movie-in-ric...blue-valentine

Blue Valentine (2010)

Derek Cianfrance’s “Blue Valentine” is best described as a less interesting version of the recent “(500) Days of Summer.” There are, of course, a few differences, but the main concept is almost the same. Instead of following a relationship that never gets passed the dating stage, “Blue Valentine” follows one that involves marriage and a child. In order to explain these characters, the film is told in two different time periods, one at the start of the relationship, and another at the inevitable end.

It opens with the couple, Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams), and their daughter, Frankie (Faith Wladyka), getting ready for their day. From the opening scene, we can see that this is late in their marriage, and already we can see that things are not going particularly well for them. She is a nurse, he is a painter, and they both love their daughter very much, but that is all that seems to interest them at this point in time. In an attempt to liven things up, Dean suggests that he and Cindy go to a theme motel, but by this time, it only seems like a matter of time before their relationship comes to an end.

The film mixes in flashbacks of how they first met. Dean used to work at a moving company, and while moving an elderly man’s belongings into a rest home, he catches sight of Cindy, who is there visiting her grandmother. Dean falls in love at first sight and decides that he must try to be with her, so he goes back to the rest home in order to find her, and ends up meeting her on the bus ride home. The two seem to hit it off immediately, and so begins a child-like relationship of two people deeply in love, well before their eventual troubles begin.

While the film does have its interesting moments, it felt like there was something missing throughout the entire movie, and, in fact, there was. We see how the relationship started and we see how it came to a close. So what happened to get from point A to point B? That’s exactly what’s missing. What happened to these characters to make them drift apart this much? Their love seemed so solid in the beginning, but by the time the last few weeks of their relationship roll around, they are already on the verge of ending it.

This is why the characters never seem as fully realized as they should have been and why the film never really draws the audience into their predicament. We don’t know what happened to cause any of this, only that they once loved each other and now things aren’t going so well. The writers could have been trying to be deep and say that, in relationships, the answer is never that clear, or that love can disappear without a trace. If this is their answer, they should have realized that it wouldn’t really make for an engaging film.

Saving the film from complete oblivion were the excellent performances from Gosling and Williams. They both have to play two ends of a relationship, which can’t be easy if the middle section is not told. Gosling first plays Dean like a boy having his first crush, then transforms his character into a man who is trying to put together the pieces of a failing marriage that seems to have lost the love they once had.

Williams plays Cindy as someone who, at first, is taken aback by Dean’s straightforward approach to her in the rest home, but quickly sees that his love is for real as hers develops just as fast. A few years later, she sees what Dean is trying to do by taking them to the hotel, but it just doesn’t seem to be enough to fix whatever happened in their relationship over the years that we didn’t get to witness any part of.

What would have inevitably been in that missing section is the character development that is required to make the audience care about how the relationship is going to eventually turn out. By jumping so late into the relationship, we can already tell how it will turn out, so we basically end up riding it out as it falls apart. Instead of just merely riding it out, the audience should be engaged in the story and emotionally invested, but this never ends up happening.

What we end up with here is 2/3 of a story that consequently feels incomplete. It obviously wanted to be something like “(500) Days of Summer,” but the writers just didn’t know how to get up to that level. That film felt like a fully-rounded story despite telling only small portions of the relationship, but the key was that it was throughout the entire relationship, not just beginning and end. “Blue Valentine” is to be commended for the excellent, realistic performances, just not so much for the story. 2.5/4 stars.
I dig your reviews - though I do not necessarily agree with them - but comparing this to (500) Days of Summer is pretty lazy, if not downright misleading.

Saying it wants to be something like that film is just silly.

Look forward to your next review.
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  #3  
Old 01-18-2011, 05:14 PM
I appreciate the kind words about my reviews, but it's silly to say the comparison is lazy and/or misleading when it's quite apt. Obviously they are not exactly alike and had their own way of doing it, but Blue Valentine just didn't do it nearly as well.

Last edited by Hal2001; 01-18-2011 at 05:43 PM..
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  #4  
Old 01-18-2011, 06:40 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hal2001 View Post
It obviously wanted to be something like “(500) Days of Summer,” but the writers just didn’t know how to get up to that level..
I'm going to have to side with Reigh. It clearly wasn't Derek Cianfrance's intention to make it something like (500) Days of Summer. That film was a comedy about one person wanting a relationship and the other wanting friends with benefits. That relationship never really took off at any point. That doesn't describe Blue Valentine in any way. First of all, it isn't a comedy. The funniest moment in the film is a sadistic joke about a child molester. It is a realistic look at the destruction of a relationship. It is about the loss of passion, intimacy and, in the end, commitment between these two characters. The Mike Leigh-esque filmmaking style made it raw and naturalistic, as opposed to (500) Days of Summer, which wasn't raw and was only sporadically naturalistic. (500) Days of Summer was good for what it was, but if you're looking for a powerful and realistic depiction of the destruction of a relationship, Blue Valentine is the way to go.
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  #5  
Old 01-18-2011, 06:47 PM
I didn't mean for it to sound like they were similar plot-wise or tone-wise (obviously they aren't much alike in those departments, other than following a relationship from beginning to end), I was only talking about the structure (i.e. the "it" I was talking about when I said they had their own way of doing "it"). I see how the wording could lead to confusion over the comparison. Perhaps I should have emphasized the "differences" part and explained it a little clearer (I've made some small changes above).

Last edited by Hal2001; 01-18-2011 at 07:12 PM..
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  #6  
Old 01-18-2011, 08:04 PM
Ah, gotcha. I still disagree that (500) did it better, but I get where you're coming from now. There are some similarities in the structure.
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  #7  
Old 02-02-2011, 04:04 PM
As we look at films as a whole, what do we expect from them? Do we just want to be entertained and laugh as the actor gets off a good joke, the romantic movie where we root for the couple to get together, or do we want to cry as we watch the drama in which that certain actor is dying, and is contemplating their lives? There can be broad extremes where a film can go, picking off the end of each spectrum in order to entertain the audience that it is trying to connect with. However, with the film like Blue Valentine, it sort of slides into the middle, gliding at each spectrum, and sometimes sitting around it for a while, but never staying comfortable for a long period of time.

In Blue Valentine, we see the past, and present of a couple who is married with a child. The husband Dean (Ryan Gosling) is perfectly content in his current life, having some beers during his job as a painter, while also caring for his daughter Frankie. The wife Cindy (Michelle Williams) is gunning for the future, working in a hospital as a nurse, and figuring out if she is ready to move out for a better job opportunity. The problem is that Dean is still stuck with his present life that they had since they got together, as the film flashbacks to the times where their love was blossoming beautifully. These conflicting personalities come to ahead as Dean attempts to create a romantic evening for the two, and ghosts of the past, as well as underlying feelings begin to emerge.

The greatest achievement towards Derek Cianfrance’s film about this failing marriage is the brutal honesty that pours out through the film. There aren’t surprises; there isn’t some big shocking twist that will accompany the ending of the film, the film simply lays out the predicaments that will end in the way that you would expect. Now, that seems a bit bland for a movie, but with the events that occur throughout, you don’t even mind how predictable the events turn out, because they feel honest.

This honesty is conveyed through Gosling’s and William’s performance as the couple who looks like their falling out of love. In Gosling, you have the charismatic, good looking guy with no real ambitions apart from pursuing the love interest of William’s character. He’s like John Cusack’s Lloyd Dobler from Say Anything if he never graduated from high school and fell in love with Diane Court. He has a job as a painter, but doesn’t feel like he needs to achieve a progression in life now that he has the love in his life, and the child that they have together. For Michelle William’s character Cindy, it’s the opposite of Dean’s. She embraced the love that Dean gave to her in the previous years, but now it just isn’t enough. The song and birds feeling of their relationship that emitted from their past have flown the coop, as she wants something to progress. He’s there with love, but is that all he’s going to do? As the film progresses, we see these personalities slowly collide, and while it’s brutal, it never feels cheap or conflict for the sake of conflict. The personalities never waver, or suddenly change for the script’s sake, but rather feel organic for the film. You see the characters from the past and present life, and you know that how they feel now complements how they feel back then.

Now, with all the praise towards Ryan Gosling and Michelle William’s performance, you can’t leave out the directing skills of Derek Cianfrance. He directs it through a documentary eye, staging shots as if you are seeing the characters through your own eyes. He balances the flashback and present scenes perfectly, cutting at points where the characters seem to reflecting that moment. He also allowed the actors to improvise each scene, making most of the moments that occur in the film to feel natural and not something that feels staged. Despite the honest brutality that resides in this film, he doesn’t leave out the romance and themes of love that are in most films. From the heart that hangs on the doorway as Dean and Cindy are talking on their first date, or the rainbow that looms in the background towards their first meeting on the bus. He balances the romance, as well the emotional drama that grows within Dean and Cindy perfectly.

In the end, Blue Valentine is simply an honest look at a love that was gained between two people, and quite possibly lost. It has the honesty that was alive in 500 Days of Summer, but without the flair. It has the harsh drama that resided in Revolutionary Road, but doesn’t feel as staged. It’s a movie that bleeds though the director’s knack of keeping things real and raw, supplemented by two actors who bring the best that they have.

9.5/10

Last edited by Mr.HyDe807; 02-02-2011 at 11:27 PM..
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  #8  
Old 02-02-2011, 10:29 PM
Agreed -- this is far more "Revolutionary Road"/"Scenes from a Marriage" than "(500) Days of Summer."
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  #9  
Old 02-03-2011, 11:06 PM
I didn't find any similarities in the structure either. (500) Days of Summer set out to track what went wrong down the line. It is very clear about every detail, every beat, every important moment of development in these two characters' relationships. What's so great about Blue Valentine is that it doesn't take place over 500 days. It takes place over 3, maybe 4 days: The couple of days when they met, a brief glimpse of their marriage ceremony, and the day they break up. It doesn't show us a single thing that happened over the course of the 6 years in between. All we know is that something changed in that time, and what was once is no more. It felt completely different than (500) Days of Summer in pretty much every aspect.
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  #10  
Old 02-04-2011, 12:01 AM
:Possible Spoilers?:


Absolutely, I agree. I don't mean that it follows 500 Days in the structure as a whole, but more along the idea of the true love gone bad. I really enjoy 500 days, but the flair of spontaneousness dancing and such is pushed out of the way for the true heartbreak that occurs in Blue Valentine.

(I still enjoy 500 Days no matter what Blue Valentine brought, as it resonated more with me. I just thought Blue Valentine had a more realistic reality when it was all said and done.)
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  #11  
Old 06-13-2011, 02:24 PM
What do you think about this?

Spoiler alert!
My wife & I both saw Blue V, and here's her take on it:
As we are introduced to the characters, our limited introduction seems to indicate that the husband is a jerk, on-the-edge, about to explode in a rage, possibly violently. We see him drinking, being somewhat snide to his wife, and becoming very possessive and jealous (the scene in the van where she tells him about running into Bobby).
As we learn more about the situation, we start to see that the bad guy is really the wife. Not once, thru all their discussions and tribulations, does Dean mention that Frankie is not his. He NEVER throws anything like that back in her face. When he goes to see her at her work to talk about why she left, her coworker calls out to her "don't let him brainwash you!", which begs the question: exactly what is she telling her coworkers about her husband?
The underlying theme of the movie, from this point of view, is that relationships are complex, and until you know the whole story, you shouldn't make any judgements.

Me, I see where my wife's POV is coming from...but I never thought he was portrayed as a jerk at the beginning, so to me it was more a tale of the wife's failings in the relationship.

What do you guys think?
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