Review by Paul Preston
You know the couple that Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams play in Derek Cianfrance’s new drama “Blue Valentine”. Most likely, they’re the people you didn’t hang out with (and still don’t), but you know them. As soon as Gosling’s Dean and Williams’ Cindy get together, you know they probably shouldn’t. And if this was real life and not a movie, you probably would say something as their relationship developed. Unfortunately for the fate of these main characters, this is a movie, and your yelling at the screen and urging them to stop their self-destruction won’t change their fate. In fact, please don’t yell at the screen at all, it’s annoying.
I can’t imagine what it was that delayed the making of this film for seven years, but it was worth the wait to hire the extraordinary talents of Gosling and Williams, who bring impressive authenticity to the roles. Gosling expertly shows his character change from romantic, moody stranger to unstable, moody familiar asshole. Williams gives her best performance yet as the meek Cindy who you feel bad for…to a point.
The movies have long been a place for escape, for elaborate love stories that will sweep you away to a passionate otherworld of love and fantasy. “Blue Valentine” isn’t that. Cianfrance has captured the other take on love. The one that’s unfortunately the story of 70% of couples in small town America. Take a close look at how real the love story of “Blue Valentine” is and you’ll see why people need to watch soap operas.
The way the story is told is ingenious, as it cross-cuts time, between a youthful looking Dean and Cindy and a more desperate Cindy and unfortunately-receeding-hair-lined Dean. The two time periods advance at a similar pace, with the early timeline ending with a picture of happiness, and the later ending with the couple’s ultimate decline. The emotional fireworks don’t let up until the end credits, where they’re replaced by actual fireworks.
I want to talk for a second about the joke that is the MPAA, who originally gave “Blue Valentine” a deadly NC-17 rating. NC-17 is supposed to be for adults only, shielding young people from graphic sex (rarely does the NC-17 get slapped on excessive violence. With death, blood and gore – bring it on! Show a celebrity’s crotch – HOW DARE YOU!). I saw the NC-17 version, and there was nothing in there that was shocking, nothing that an R rating hadn’t delivered before. In fact, one point of contention was supposedly graphic cunnilingus, something I’d seen twice this year in the critically fawned-over R RATED “Black Swan” and “The Kids Are All Right”.
After much appeal from the public and distributor Harvey Weinstein (his quote: “I think we can all agree that we are living with an outdated ratings system that gives torture porn, horror and ultraviolet films the same rating as films with so-called inappropriate language”), the MPAA appeals board granted the film an R rating. The NC-17 is a kiss of death for box office, now relegated to films that appear on soft-core pay cable. So it seems that when the MPAA lays the smack down on a film with an NC-17, they’re really bullying the filmmakers to change their film – make cuts. “Blue Valentine” made no such cuts and was still granted the R.
I love this, because that move is basically rendering the Motion Picture Association of America a bigger JOKE than ever.
Apparently, it’s NOT the content that will get you a certain rating, apparently it’s just up to the whim of the MPAA. You do realize that doesn’t set a standard that filmmakers and studios can meet? I know what’s really happening here. Hey MPAA, stop shitting on women! Guys get oral sex in the movies all the time, it’s about time a woman got to feel the same pleasure! ….actually, shitting on a woman would definitely get you an NC-17.
One of the best things that can be said about “Blue Valentine” is that the sex scene isn’t the only reason to see the movie, as is often the case with controversial films. “Blue Valentine” is a unique telling of an achingly familiar love story with towering lead performances.
Directed by: Derek Cianfrance
Release Date: December 29, 2010
Run Time: 112 minutes
Distributor: The Weinstein Co.