Published Jan 06, 2011Having Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams executive produce the feature they star in may sound like a bad, stoned joke, and will garner attention, but it's quite a logical step considering this film.
At odds with a lifestyle of exhausted routines, loveless marriages and pleasure-less sex, Blue Valentine (a non-linear retelling of a couple falling in and out of love) is unsettled and unafraid. Winner of the 2006 Chrysler Film Project, the dialogue between Dean (Gosling) and Cindy (Williams), as they fight, fuck and everything in between, doesn't succumb to common exposition crutches. In fact, it's what isn't said and the tension therein that defines each scene.
The lack of a clear protagonist — we flip from hating her for her cold, severe practicality and him for his flippant, childish approach to responsibility, to loving her for her assertive ability to hold down the fort and him for his honest-to-goodness loyalty and love for her — attests to the realities of divorces where no one is right or wrong. Sometimes shit just happens and no one is at fault. Nothing is glossy here and neither character is seen with rose-tinted glasses.
While love and sex are portrayed as they really are — brutal and unforgiving — there is an eroticism mixed in with the realities of life after the romance novel fantasy of their coupling ends. This is a performance-heavy piece that surely left Gosling and Williams emotionally bereft with its demands. Honest and courageous, they rip their hearts out on screen and we bleed with them. Pay close attention to the (best) scene in which Gosling sings to a ukulele and Williams tap dances, as it was completely improvised, with both actors unaware of the other's talents.
Blue Valentine is a tough cookie of a film that's not for the faint of heart. There's a kind of icy sheen over it at first, but as you're drawn in and get to know Dean and Cindy, the coldness drips away and its unique identity provides this movie with its uninhibited, everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink charm. (Alliance)