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" Blue Valentine" - {Blu-ray} - (Keith)
Reviewer:
Keith BieryGolick
Studio: Anchor Bay
Genre:
Drama
Release Date:
5/10/11
Special Features:

Audio commentary, deleted scenes, making of Blue Valentine, home movies Rated: R

Review:

What happens when two people fall in and out of love? Blue Valentine, writer-director Derek Cianfrance’s second feature film, attempts to answer this question by leaving other, easier questions (like “why didn’t the relationship work out?” or “whose fault was it?”) to the audience’s imagination and tries to get at the emotional core of a young couple’s slow demise.

To accomplish this, Cianfrance has come up with the interesting narrative gimmick of intersplicing two periods of time, separated by six years, in the young couple’s romance: the endearing courtship period and the bitter break-up period. By doing this, Cianfrance has, in many ways, created a more serious version of the 2009 indie-hit 500 Days of Summer which also cleverly bounces around in the timeframe of a relationship that ultimately sours. That film opens up with a narrator saying, “This is a story of boy meets girl, but you should know upfront, this is not a love story.” Blue Valentine doesn’t have any such narration; it’s not that type of movie. But if it did, it would say, “You should know upfront, this is not always an easy film to watch,” because it really isn’t. The film unfolds at its own methodically slow pace while also firmly operating in the legendary independent filmmaker John Cassavetes’ (A Woman Under the Influence) world of cinema verité style. While this naturalistic, documentary-like style will almost surely turn away some viewers, the ones who stay will certainly get caught up in the emotions of our young couple, Dean and Cindy, as they try in vain to make their relationship work. ***

Cianfrance’s stylistic choices are surely worthy of praise, but perhaps his most vital contribution to the film was his casting of Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson, Fracture) and Michelle Williams (Shutter Island, Brokeback Mountain) in the main roles. Gosling plays Dean, a character that skillfully subverts genre and societal conventions by inhabiting a quasi-female role in the relationship. Williams plays Cindy, who in one of the penultimate scenes during an argument where all of the couple’s repressed anger comes bubbling to the surface, screams at Dean, “I’m more man than you are, you cunt.” Scenes like this are ugly and emotional, but there are moments of humor and beauty to be found here as well. One such example is a scene where Cindy badly tap dances to Dean’s ukulele playing and singing of the pop classic “You Always Hurt the One You Love.” These scenes work because the actors ground them in reality, convincing the viewer of the film’s realism which, in turn, allows us access to genuine emotions; not the emotions of a typical Hollywood movie, but the real stuff. ---

Special Features:

Audio commentary, featuring the director Derek Cianfrance and co-editor Jim Helton, meticulously details basically anything you could possibly want to know about the movie -- not particularly entertaining, but always interesting. /20 minutes of deleted scenes -- there was some good stuff left on the cutting room floor. /A three minute faux home movie features the actors in character. /An unremarkable 14 minute long “making of.” ---

Final Words:

Featuring astounding performances from two of the best young actors around, Blue Valentine feels real, and while certainly not easy to watch, it succeeds at tapping into emotions that most films are only able to artificially touch upon.

 

 
 
 
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