“Blue Valentine” falls short

Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams star in “Blue Valentine,” as Dean and Cindy. Their marriage is on the rocks and after the death of the family dog, issues slowly come to a head as they both reflect on their past as a couple. This all occurs over a two day period. After they drop their daughter off at Grandpa’s house, Dean decides the couple should get a room and spend some time together. The couple reflects, tensions run high, the final climax arrives, and we are not at all surprised.

“Blue Valentine” has received much critical acclaim and has been nominated for many awards, which mostly includes Best Actor and Best Actress. This is no surprise because Gosling and Williams do give a wonderful showing of their acting capabilities.

In 2006, the script for “Blue Valentine” won the Chrysler Film Project competition. This December, the director, Derek Cianfrance won “Most Promising Filmmaker” by the Chicago Film Critics Association. The film has also been nominated for “Best Film” by Gotham Independent Film Awards. Although it can be difficult to tell whether it is the fault of the writing or the directing, the plethora of awards is surprising; the story is slow and frequently boring and lacking in character development.

It is possible that the director wanted Dean and Cindy to be a generic couple that many different types of people could relate to. Yet, we are told far too little about them. It has been said by critics that this movie is depressing and heartbreaking. But it is difficult to feel these emotions when we don’t really get to know the characters enough to develop empathy for them. In fact, at times the characters are not only too thinly drawn, but unlikeable as well. At most, if we can see a reflection of ourselves in these characters, and for the many of us who have had a relationship similar to that of Dean and Cindy’s, it makes us laugh at our naivety or immaturity for putting up with a situation like that.

The most interesting part of this film is the staging. The idea that Dean has decided to take the couple to a hotel where the theme of their room is “The Future” as they reflect on their past says something about the director’s artistic expression. This seems to be Cianfrance’s way of showing the irony of what Dean and Cindy expect from the future. Dean tries to relight the flame while Cindy pushes away. The frequent sex scenes are where most of this tension is being expressed. It isn’t long before the audience begins to wonder if mutual lust was all these two had in common. If their relationship was merely an extremely long one-night-stand, what do we care if it is ending?

The trailers make this film look exciting and interesting. This would have been the case if there were more to say with this story, but really there is not. It is slow and dreary. It is very choppy at times because of the back-and-forth storytelling of past and present. This choppiness doesn’t really create a well rounded and fulfilling story with interesting characters. If there is a reason to see “Blue Valentine” it is the acting, which is excellent. It just isn’t enough.

“Blue Valentine” is playing daily at the Ashland Varsity Theater, 166 E. Main Street, (541) 482 3321.

 

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