The Reel Deal
A Reel Deal Film Review
Film Insight by Tyler Malone
Reel Rating: 5 out of 5
“THE BEAUTY OF A WE’LL SEE”
Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine is the ultimate anti-romantic anti-comedy. It shows love as it is, and not as we think we want it to be. This is not a story of love as it has been portrayed in countless romantic comedies and in infinite issues of women’s magazines. This is not a happily ever after fairy tale. This is an unflinching glimpse at the ups-and-downs of real love in real life. It’s not that nothing ends happily in the real world, but nothing ever ends happily ever after. The difference is you have to work for happiness, whereas happiness ever after is bestowed upon you from some outside force from above (some god or force or narrator) and magically perfection exists for all of eternity. The truth is that Prince Charming is not Prince Charming, he’s as flawed as you. The real Prince Charming farts. The concept of prince charmings and happily ever afters is not only a fantasy, it is a disingenuous fantasy (for it would be much more miserable than we initially think). Happily ever after is boredom ever after dressed up with a winning smile. True love has, and needs, its warts. Though I call Blue Valentine the ultimate anti-romantic anti-comedy, don’t think it isn’t at all romantic or at all comedic. If anything it is more romantic and more comedic than any romantic comedy released in all of 2010, and probably any romantic comedy released in any number of years.
The romance in Blue Valentine is real–awkwardly real–as though it is true romance blossoming before our eyes. The comedy is organic–funny in the way hilarious people are funny, not the way clever jokes are funny. Nothing feels forced, or even–dare I say it?–written. That isn’t to say that the film isn’t well-written. It actually has quite a marvelous script, for the best writing feels unwritten: natural, organic, real. It comes out of a person, not a pen.
Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling both do phenomenal jobs at being real people–ironically, the hardest thing for most actors to be. Their performances are subtle, but phenomenal. They are both soon-to-be screen legends still in the beginning phases of their careers. They give writer-director Cianfrance their best, and their best is well worth the price of admission.
Though it is partly its “reality” that makes Blue Valentine so engrossing, what really makes the film a breath of fresh air is something else entirely (though perhaps it is also tangentially related to its “reality”). The film’s brilliance is that it doesn’t take sides. We so often think of our world in terms of binaries–black and white, right and wrong, happy and sad, etc. It is how we, as humans, think and speak and describe. Something is either X or it is not-X. In fact, the entire premise of a movie review is binaristic. My job is to tell you whether this film is good or bad, or more specifically: worth seeing or not.
I even started my review off by calling the film “anti-romantic” and an “anti-comedy,” which is nothing if not binaristic. Let me save face a little: I did at least flip that binary on its head a bit by then describing the film as, ironically, more romantic and more comedic than any romantic comedy of the last year. That’s what this film does: it forces you to rethink the binaries you use in describing it. Many people have called it sad, but I see it as equally happy. They say depressing, I say hopeful. The film is actually both and neither. It is a mystery, and everything is left in a muddle. Like a Jackson Pollock painting, the muddle may be beautiful, but it isn’t something easily described. It is ambiguous, and allows the viewer to see it as he or she will. Even the ending is left up in the air–as is the case in real life. As Michelle Williams said in a recent interview, “I think the same thing is true in life that’s true in this movie, that you’re left unfortunately with a question instead of an answer.” There are no happily ever afters, there are only we’ll sees.
But unlike Michelle Williams says in the above quote, being left solely with questions rather than answers isn’t necessarily “unfortunate.” Actually, there’s something special and intriguing about the beauty of a we’ll see: like this film, it’s worth investing your time and your self and seeing…
Blue Valentine is a film directed by Derek Cianfrance, and written by Derek Cianfrance, Joey Curtis and Cami Delavigne. It stars Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. The film centers on a contemporary married couple, charting their evolution over a span of years by cross-cutting between time periods.
Written by Tyler Malone
Photography Courtesy of the Weinstein Company
Design by Marie Havens