Erin Petersen

“Blue Valentine” opens in Milwaukee

By - Jan 29th, 2011 04:00 am
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Blue Valentine is one of those films that either makes you want to rush home into the arms of your lover, or makes you never want to  navigate the treacherous path that is falling in love. It sort of does a number on you; you’re glad you saw it —  it’s a remarkable and lovely film– but at the same time you don’t know if you’ll ever be able to experience it again. It’s sort of exhausting.

Set in Brooklyn and rural neighborhoods of upstate New York, respectively, the film opens upon the very real life of Dean and Cindy (played by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams), a married couple on the rocks.

Dean and Cindy were once two star-crossed lovers, carrying out that sort of rosy-hued affair that most experience at least once in their life — the sort of all-encompassing romance in which you instantly feel a sense of “home” in the other’s embrace, despite the fact that you barely know each other. It’s like a never-ending honeymoon; the future looks bright and full of potential.

Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams in BLUE VALENTINEAnd then reality sets in. The whimsy gives way to the mundane tasks of everyday life. We go to work, we pay the mortgage and try to marry our current lives with those that we dreamt of when we set out to actually have lives of our own. Somehow, “romance” becomes one night in a cheesy themed motel.

In spite of the growing alienation, the longing persists– the incessant memory of the love that was and the nagging of what it has become — a constant tug of war. Cindy wants out, and in some ways, wants to be the victim. And so does Dean, but he is too busy grasping at straws without really knowing why.

The dialog is minimal, but substantial. Much of the film relies solely on the viewer’s ability to pick up on its nuances, and in some ways, to find a mirror in the stellar performances of Gosling and Williams. Director Derek Cianfrance makes no bones about allowing the audience to share in some of the most uncomfortable, yet unflinchingly honest– moments of this everyday life, moments which almost got the film an (undeserved) NC-17 rating.

There were scenes in which you couldn’t help but laugh as these very real-life situations present themselves, while at the same time you find your heart sinking  once you begin to relate to his desperation.

In flashback, we see the odd set of circumstances through which the two of them became “the two of them.” Those fleeting, sunbathed backward glances in which they profess their love to each other over  doo-wop songs and ukulele jingles, in which they completely abandoned their planned life course in  order to chart new territory together. Even after the story is fleshed out on the screen, you’ll wonder how it got away from them.

Blue Valentine is currently playing at the Oriental Theatre. Click here for more information.

Categories: Movies

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