I was eagerly waiting to see Blue Valentine. With all of the buzz around the initial MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) rating of NC-17 and the buzz of it being such a good movie, I jumped at the chance to review it. I happened to see Blue Valentine on the day that Harvey Weinstein went before the MPAA to appeal its initial rating, which ended up getting an R rating after the appeal. I knew going into the screening that the film was about the beginning and the end of a relationship, and that the acting was going to be superb. The film had a long road to making it on screen in front of an audience. Both the director Derek Cianfrance and Michelle Williams had been working on this film for ten years with a few different actors attached to the main male part before Ryan Gosling stepped in. If the people involved with a film have that much perseverance, it needs to be seen.
I have to say right off the bat, that I was mildly disappointed with Blue Valentine. I expected to love it, and I ended up coming away from it just liking it. I think I was the victim of all the buzz surrounding the film. When you read many reviews raving about the film, you build up an anticipation of how good it is going to be. The story is not going to appeal to everyone. I do not see many guys willingly seeing it, save for the nudity and sex scenes. The audience that is going to love it the most are the people who can most identify with the situations that Dean and Cindy have been in and are going through. Seeing any relationship that you are rooting for fall apart before your eyes can be difficult. Reliving that experience while you are watching it happen on screen to two characters can bring up memories. These audience members are the ones who are going to come away from the movie-going experience raving about it. It is a very real story. In my screening, there was someone who was very affected by what was happening on screen and was openly sobbing.
The best part of Blue Valentine is the acting. Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling obviously put their whole selves into the roles. They are very raw, gritty, truthful, and yet beautiful, loving, and innocent. They both had to deal with how their characters are at the beginning of the relationship and how they changed at the end of it. Michelle Williams put on weight, and Ryan Gosling has a receding hairline and some hideous glasses for their performances for the last part of the relationship. Gosling’s Dean has the best heart and does what many men could never do for a girl. He loves Cindy heart and soul. Williams’ Cindy finds the seemingly perfect guy in Dean, yet she increasingly becomes disappointed in him.
The limited supporting cast is great as well. The daughter, Frankie, played by Faith Wladyka, is pretty good considering the scenes she is involved in. Parts of the movie are ad-libbed, and for a child to just go with it, is impressive to me. John Doman plays Cindy’s verbally abusive father who mellows out in his older age. Jen Jones plays Cindy’s grandmother, and she is the source of some humor in the story. Mike Vogel makes a great college jock and ex-boyfriend to Cindy.
The scenes that most resonated with me are the ones involving Dean moving an old man named Walter from his lifelong home to a nursing home. It is in these scenes that you can see the heart of Dean, and you can see why he marries Cindy. It is incredibly touching.
The sex scenes were nothing to warrant an NC-17 rating. I am surprised that the MPAA even went with that rating to begin with. There is another scene that takes place in a doctor’s office that had me a little shocked. I feel that there will be more audience members speaking about that scene rather than the sex.
An added bonus to Blue Valentine is that the band Grizzly Bear provides the music. Oddly enough, the credits of the movie is another favorite part of the film for me. The images and the graphics used blended well with the music. Stick around for credits.
As I said already, I was mildly disappointed with Blue Valentine. I found the story not that appealing to me, but the acting is superb. As with any movie review you read, everyone has different tastes when it comes to movies. I would like to encourage you to see and support this independent film, and find out if you really love the story.
I give Blue Valentine 4 “Down with the MPAA signs” out of 5. (I easily give the acting a 5 out of 5, but only give the story 3 out of 5.)