Monday, January 31, 2011

Blue Valentine

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Feel-Bad Flashback Flick Deconstructs Failed Marriage

Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy’s (Michelle Williams) marriage was doomed almost from the start. When they met, she was a promising premed student; he was a high school dropout who had to take a dead-end job just to keep a roof over his head. At the time, she was attending a college in rural Pennsylvania while he was eking out a living a world away in Brooklyn.
Their paths crossed quite by coincidence when Dean was assigned by his moving company to help an elderly gentleman (Melvin Jurdem) relocate to a nursing home on the very same day Cindy was there visiting her ailing grandmother (Jenn Jones). For Dean, it was love at first sight, and when he still couldn’t get her out of his mind a month later, he found an excuse to return to Scranton to try to track her down.
The incurable romantic serendipitously spots the object of his obsession on a bus and wins her heart on the spot by serenading her with a song. He had no idea, however, that she not only already had a hunky boyfriend, Bobby Ontario (Mike Vogel), but that she was pregnant by the popular big man on campus.
Nonetheless, Cindy takes Dean home to meet the parents (John Doman and Maryann Plunkett), and they are obviously underwhelmed by their daughter’s dating a chain-smoking underachiever with not much of a future to speak of. But their obvious disappointment does nothing to discourage the hopelessly-smitten suitor from popping the question that very night.
And when Cindy accepts the proposal, the mismatched pair predictably proceeds to embark on a disastrous six-year relationship marked mostly by incessant arguing and a basic inability to communicate effectively. The real victim here is the baby, Frankie (Faith Wladyka), who didn’t ask to be raised by a dysfunctional couple of loudmouthed losers who deserve each other.
Thus, “Can this marriage be saved?” is the burning question at the center of Blue Valentine, a flashback flick directed by Derek Cianfrance. Michelle Williams earned an Oscar nomination for her super-realistic performance as a wife increasingly embittered by both motherhood and the burden of being the breadwinner. Co-star Ryan Gosling is just as convincing in his capacity as Dean, a chuckleheaded slacker with lots of shortcomings.
Unfortunately, this much-ballyhooed movie has a fundamental flaw, namely, that it’s no fun to watch. For regardless of how plausible a picture Blue Valentine might paint, far be it from me to recommend that my readers invest in such a relentlessly-unpleasant experience, no matter how well-acted.
A depressing deconstruction of a marriage that clearly was never meant to be.

Fair (1 star)
Rated R for profanity, nudity, violence and graphic sexuality.
Running time: 112 Minutes
Distributor: The Weinstein Company

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