Monday, 31 January 2011

'Blue Valentine' Review

'Blue Valentine' (dir: Derek Cianfrance, 2010/2011), Cert: 15

I love the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) and their bizarre rating decisions. It seems that even in this day and age, the American are still so concerned with cinematic content. They ended 2010 by giving ‘The King’s Speech’ a ludicrous R rating compared to our 12A certificate for its brief scenes of strong language, and then they originally gave Derek Cianfrance’s new romantic picture ‘Blue Valentine’ an NC-17 rating; which for those who know anything about American cinema, this certificate is basically the kiss of death. It allows such a small audience to see it and usually only plays in a minority of theatres. I guess our U.S friends haven’t grasped the content of ‘adult’ cinema yet, and by that, I don’t mean pornography. Here in the UK, it’s perfectly acceptable to have an 18 rated movie in cinemas, but to Americans, that’s sheer madness. So, considering ‘Blue Valentine’ has had a boxing match with the censors, it’s seems to be winning the hearts of critics and audiences worldwide, and it has even landed an Oscar nomination, so I wanted to see what all the fuss was about...
 The film centres around Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams); a contemporary married couple who are struggling with their relationship. They have a young daughter, Frankie who seems to be the only thing keeping them together. The film cuts from different time-spans and shows the beginning and growth of their relationship to the present day, where it is basically at its end.
 I am a huge fan of Indie cinema; I find it enriching, entertaining and above all, honest. Indie films don’t shy away from realities like major Hollywood productions; they are willing and able to present a realistic and socially motivated image which I find inspiring. ‘Blue Valentine’ certainly is an Indie film and certainly does paint a truthful picture of married life and what is needed to build a successful relationship. However, my problems with the film start here, and I have many.
 Firstly, this film is miles too long. Its 112 minute running time felt like a real stretch and an unnecessary one at that. For a picture with a basic narrative, it could have easily been 90 minutes and still got the point across. Next are the characters; they are excruciatingly boring and utterly infuriating. Considering this film is about a marriage on it’s last legs, I was hoping for some real passion, some aching pain; actual emotions, but all I saw was two leads whining, moaning and sobbing for nearly two hours. Reviews also lead me to believe that domestic violence was a feature, which as morbid as it sounds, after 70 minutes of mind-numbing boredom I hoped there was, but there wasn’t. The film also tries to sway the audience by making us hate Dean and love Cindy, which to me made no sense at all. Dean is clearly the nicer character, who although has problems, is desperate and willing to re-build their relationship. Plus, he is an excellent father. Cindy on the other hand, is a sly and malicious character who shows no interest in her husband or in their marriage.
 ‘Blue Valentine’ tries to be daring with its tale and content; it contains brief and fairly mild sex scenes and some strong language, but it’s certainly nothing that should have shaken the Americans. An R rating would have been the right first choice, and the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) got it spot on here with a 15 certificate. I just wished it had tried harder to be a better film rather than a risqué one. I was really excited to see this having heard numerous good things and being a fan of Ryan Gosling, but I was cripplingly disappointed.
 The performances aren’t bad, but they are certainly not that interesting. Gosling is the best thing about the film, at points he is very dimensional and kept the film going; however, the same can’t be said for Williams who gives an incredibly average performance. She may shout, cry and moan a lot, but that doesn’t make her any good. I am utterly baffled as to why she was Oscar nominated, it’s ridiculous. This film didn’t need to be considered by the Academy anyway but I would have given the nomination to Gosling over Williams if needs be.
 There are so many better features about marriage and relationships in this context; for me, ‘Closer’ (2006) is the first choice and is a sheer masterwork that really examines relationships under a careful eye, and the brilliant ‘Revolutionary Road’ (2008) peels back the layers of a suburban couple to reveal it’s dark and distressing centre. I would recommend these two far superior films over ‘Blue Valentine’ any day.
 I’m confused as to why this has had such an embracing response from so many, but the ‘Blue Valentine’ I watched was a predictable, empty and lifeless picture that only seemed slightly glued together by a single performance.

As dull as dishwater; a painful film that wants to be good but consistently fails. The only reason I gave this two is for Gosling.
By Chris Haydon

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