By: Oberst von Berauscht (Two Beers) –
In the early 1970’s Francis Ford Coppola was working on the concept of a film using flashbacks to tell the story of a father in his youth and of his son entering a trying period of his adulthood.These stories were to be woven together seamlessly.The concept for this film eventually became the basis for the structure of The Godfather Part II.
This structure is borrowed in Derek Cianfrance’s sophomore feature film Blue Valentine, using flashbacks to compare the formation and dissolution of a relationship.However, in this flick, blue collar love is in the air.
“Carl Edwards?… Maw, git in the truck!”
Dean (Ryan Gosling) is a high-school dropout musician who is struggling to find his way in life, finally finding work for a moving business.He meets Cindy, student of nursing whose dreams of being a doctor are put on indefinite hold when she becomes pregnant.They have a short romance, culminating in Cindy’s pregnancy, and eventually marriage.
Fast forward several years in the future, and between his cigarettes and beer Dean works for a painting business. Cindy has become a working mother, often spending overtime at the hospital.Due to her on-call status, Dean seems to be spending the most time with their daughter Frankie.Dean’s habits gradually become a turn-off for Cindy, and the couple has lost much of their early intimacy. Dean meanwhile is growing suspicious and disaffected by Cindy’s tiredness and absence.Their relationship has become the very definition of cold fish.
Blue Valentine is a beautifully shot and brilliantly lit film. If there was no dialog in the entire film, you’d know the mood of each scene by the cinematography alone, and it boasts two achingly strong performances from Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling as the star-crossed couple. They are the heart of the film, and if either shirked their duties, it wouldn’t be as affecting.
In one scene, Gosling helps an elderly man move into his room at a retirement home.As he unpacks and looks at the man’s old family photographs, he decides to decorate the room with some of the man’s things, such as his military uniform, a matchbook collection, and other small things.This small gesture is greeted by the elderly man with subtle but meaningful appreciation. It is scenes like this that would be edited out of mainstream Hollywood films, but are so important to show how Dean’s character changes over time.
I wish I could say this was a one beer film; it had everything going for it.But as the denouement made clear to me, this can be an ugly film.Like watching two close friends decide to get married, only to grow to hate each other.Because you like both of them, it breaks your heart to watch the drama build and the love die.What makes matters all the worse is that the filmmaker lets you in on the intimate scenes that a friend wouldn’t normally see.It is all very voyeuristic.
What is more interesting to me is that no relationship in the film, even those by secondary characters, ends well.There are plenty of films about relationships that end badly, but few films have made the step of ending with the message of “It’ll all end in tears, probably already has.”
Like fashion cover girl, this film is beautiful on the outside, a near masterpieces, but hideous and hateful on the inside.
MOVIEBOOZER TRIVIA:Songwriter Tom Waits 1978 album had several songs about broken relationships including “Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis”, and “Blue Valentines” The album itself also was called “Blue Valentine”.Do I sense a connection here?
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: whenever Ryan Gosling is drinking
Take a Drink: whenever Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams shout at each other
Down a shot: for every flashback