Feeling less like a bittersweet odyssey through heartbreak romance than a bit of filmmaker screen therapy and personal ego repair for the women who may have inexplicably dumped you in your life, Blue Valentine is the kind of busybody cinema that could make eavesdropping on bickering neighbors seems more fascinating in comparison. Glum in the extreme and wagging a metaphorical finger at women as the bitchy, unfathomable culprit in unrequited love, the film never surmounts an emotional distance between the audience and whining characters, nearly as estranged as these mismatched lovebirds.
A sort of male version of a chick flick, Blue Valentine relishes gender role reversal in love, pitting Michelle Williams’ fickle compulsive sexual appetite against Ryan Gosling’s sentimental, goofy puppy dog infatuation. Gosling is Dean, a complacent house painter and moving man who meets Cindy (Michelle Williams) by chance at a nursing home, where she’s visiting her grandmother and he’s transporting a new resident’s belongings.
Cindy, unlike Dean, is an ambitious college student with aspirations to become a doctor. She’s also got an intimidating, won’t take no for an answer jealous boyfriend lurking about. So when Dean begins making repeated unwelcome moves on Cindy and she eventually concedes to reluctant romance with a guy she finds occasionally amusing as opposed to intoxicating, there’s simply a perplexed reaction to this disintegrating from the start courtship, where the sparks never quite fly. And when Cindy finds herself pregnant and allows Dean to pressure her into marriage, while at the same time sorrowfully abandoning hopes of becoming a doctor for an expedient nursing gig instead, there’s no question where the future of this turbulent twosome is headed.
So then the question is, why bother prolonging their frustrating agony on screen – and ours – with the inevitable downer resolution waiting in the wings? And bypassing what might have been a more involving conflict, inherent in the class differences between Dean’s worshipful blue collar working stiff and Cindy’s rather disdainful, upwardly mobile bratty babe.
Now, you may be viewing a different version of Blue Valentine after any trimming in the switch from an NC-17 to R rating. But unless all that sulking and squabbling hit the cutting room floor along with those makeup sex, too much information trysts in question despite the impressive performances, there’s not likely much remaining to get excited about.
The Weinstein Company