Blue Valentine is definitely not a love story, no matter whatever the director may claim. Directed by Derek Cianfrance and starring Ryan Gosling & Michelle Williams, this movie meanders its way towards absolutely nothing at all. While Gosling and Williams both turn in incredible performances, the movie itself is horribly unwatchable. I have a very hard time believing that Williams’s character was ever actually interested in Gosling’s character.
My sentiment may be fueled by the fact that Blue Valentine makes no effort whatsoever to develop or even make Williams’s character be likable in the slightest. Told as two interleaving stories in which the pair falls in love (wholly unbelievable) and the dissolution of their coupling (wholly believable due to failing to see how they even got together in the first place).
The MPAA originally wanted to rate Blue Valentine as NC-17, which gave this movie some buzz. However, after viewing, I cannot see why this movie would even be considered a NC-17 movie. I’d even consider bumping it down to a PG-13 rating under my personal views. There’s no full-frontal nudity, a little bit of swearing, drinking, some sexual action, but generally, it had to have been the cunnilingus scenes that caused the MPAA raters to attempt to rate this movie as NC-17.
Dean (Gosling) is a hard-working high school dropout that has managed to woo Cindy (Williams) into marrying him, even though she’s carrying somebody else’s baby. Dean has raised the child as his own, and eventually at the movie’s boiling point, asks if Cindy will have a child of their own together with him. Cindy refuses, and in general has been a horrible person throughout the movie.
We never find out what exactly it is that caused the splinter in their marriage, although I believe we don’t need to know, because the answer is right in front of us. Cindy is an insufferable prick who probably married Dean to spite Bobby Ontario (the father of her child), because Dean worships the ground that she walked on. Cindy doesn’t appreciate Dean at all – probably the result of her broken-home upbringing.
Without functional relationships to use as reference points, Cindy probably got mad at Dean about something or other, mad that he tried to have fun and never tried to “better” himself to get a better-paying job. Feeling trapped in this dead-end life with a guy she seemingly has no sexual interest or chemistry with, Cindy has withdrawn into herself and Williams embodies Cindy’s sullen demeanor with an outstanding performance.
But just because Gosling also embodied Dean’s aloof and struggling character doesn’t mean that the movie itself as a whole was worth watching. There’s really no point to the story itself, and watching this movie is just as painful as going through an actual divorce yourself. I’m pretty sure that some people (and critics) may have attributed this evoking of raw emotion as being a powerful result of the movie, making it a good movie in their minds.
Well guess what? I can chop a raw onion, and I’ll likely cry. That doesn’t mean the onion itself is any good. It could be a pretty moldy onion. It could taste terrible. Just because I cry doesn’t mean the onion is good. It’s the same with Blue Valentine. Even though two superb performances are given and the viewer may feel raw emotion, does not mean that the film itself is good. You’re not likely to recall any details whatsoever about the story, and for me, the story is the backbone to the film itself.
The director has apparently given Gosling and Williams free reign to do whatever they wanted during the filming of this movie. While that may produce effective results once in a while, it didn’t produce a good movie in this case. If you’re interested in either the Gosling or Williams oeuvre, then certainly watch Blue Valentine. But I really cannot recommend this film otherwise unless one is a completist in some definable category that this film falls under, such as movies from 2010, or movies with Academy Award nominations (Williams was nominated for best actress).
Blue Valentine won’t be re-watched by me under any circumstances, which is a shame as it’s one of the rare DVDs that truly has exemplary subtitling. The deleted scenes also make me wonder what other scenes were cut from this movie, since some of the deleted scenes are better than the actual included scenes. But I’m not sure if this movie could have been salvaged using the donut format it was presented in. Even with the missing middle, I don’t believe that the movie would have worked for me.
Perhaps with a complete rewrite and tightened focus by the director, essentially a completely different film, it may have succeeded. But in the end, the lack of character development for Cindy along with never explaining whatsoever what happened between the two of them (apart from my proposed hypothesis earlier in this post) doomed Blue Valentine from the start for me. Focusing completely on one character is fine if that character is intended to be the focal point of the film. Dean was fleshed out significantly more than Cindy and becomes a sympathetic character, but the movie itself isn’t about Dean, but rather the relationship between Dean and Cindy.
And with every relationship, focusing on only half of the relationship leads to the downfall of that relationship. It’s ironic that Blue Valentine comments about the status of modern relationships and yet victimizes itself with its own commentary. And unless this relationship between the movie’s social commentary and focus on Dean at the expense of Cindy can proved to be intentionally done (which I find very hard to believe), I feel that due to this lucky coupling of commentary and its reflection on the actual relationship exposition in the movie, Blue Valentine has furtively stumbled into a sort of pseudo-success for most viewers and critics. In the end, your time spent with Dean and Cindy will end up like their relationship, silently smoldering about the amount of time you spent with each other before eventually flinging it aside and starting a search for something better.
MPAA Rating: R