Monday, September 19, 2011

Blue Valentine (2010)

Until 'Fed Up' Do We Part 

-  I do not know what Def Leppard was talking about; love does not "bite." Nope, only marriage bites - at least, that is what the 2010 Indie Blue Valentine would have you believe. Taking a shallow, leering look into how love is awesome but marriage is the pits, Blue Valentine is only recommendable to those who enjoy watching pretentious Indies filled with dysfunction, sobbing and head-in-hands.

Blue Valentine is about Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams), a struggling married couple trying to raise their daughter in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. It takes two to tangle in this troubled marriage: the immature Dean is frustrated with their passionless marriage and the selfish Cindy feels disinterested with life in general. Of course, things were not always this way. Dean and Cindy used to be madly in love; you know, before they got hitched. Oh what great times they had purposelessly running around town, spontaneously making love (at least once in public) and dancing to Dean's ukulele on a dark, neon-lit street. It was a regular white trash Emo dream!

But that was then; this is now. Years after getting married, Dean and Cindy have grown far apart - for.... uh.... some reason  - and as a result of a combined resentment and anger over their relationship, Dean and Cindy yell at each other a lot and are generally dissatisfied with life as they know it. Ping-ponging back-and-forth between these in-love and out-of-love dimensions of Dean and Cindy's relationship, Blue Valentine creates a pretentious, dysfunction-laden Indie drama for us to choke on.

Stars Michelle Williams, getting an Oscar nomination for her performance, and Ryan Gosling, getting accolades of his own, certainly convince but unfortunately can go so far with the unlikable characters. One can easily see that Williams and Gosling tackle their demanding roles with a focused professionalism but the characters fail to strike a chord with the audience. The problem is that Dean and Cindy are incredibly unlikable characters on paper not just because of their destructive actions in the film but just because they are selfish degenerates that only the modern age could birth.

Visually, the film looks like a commercial for Ragstock. This comes as no surprise since the film's director, Derek Cianfrance, had little outside of music videos and documentaries to his name prior to Blue Valentine. The film incorporates the same enervated visual style of the modern low budget Indie and all of the boring grainy dreariness that comes with it. I, personally, love a cheaply made dark-and-dank-looking film; but the catch is that a film has to be *stylishly* dark and innovative within the confines of its low budget. However, Blue Valentine is not stylish but vapid and barren; cut from the same conceited cloth as other Indie films that look like crap on purpose because its fashionable.

If I have not been clear already, let me reveal that I had a thorough and fundamental dislike for this awful movie. Blue Valentine is one of many films that throw nothing but dysfunction and sadness in the face of the audience, expecting us to be moved and impressed about a story featuring people that should be happy but, because of their shallowness and selfishness, are not. Well, we are not moved nor impressed. Blue Valentine contains a sexual content that originally earned the film an NC-17 rating before the filmmakers edited it down to R and features more tears than "Absolutely" (OK, that's a weak reference but hopefully you'll get it) but none of it means anything because it is all born out of the shallowness and self-centeredness of the film's detestable characters. The act has worn thin Hollywood: we need more than just sobbing, sex and dysfunction to be moved and entertained! We need relatable and interesting characters, an engaging story and striking visual style in our tragedies - none of which shows up in Blue Valentine.


"Is this you?"

A recurring visual motif throughout the film, the specifics of the phrase "is this you?" is not explored directly in the film. However, it did resonate with me and I have developed my own personal interpretation of the phrase: If "this" - Dean and Cindy's relationship - is not you, give thanks; but if "this is you," seek counseling immediately.


CBC Rating: 3/10

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