Blue Valentine

11 Nov

Well, sitting at home with a cold, I spent my Sunday watching Blue Valentine–a Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams movie from a couple years back.

Just FYI on that, if you’re looking for a comforting movie to have with your chicken soup, this is not it.  This is a cover-your-eyes-because-it’s-just-too-sharp emotional dirge through a relationship.  Entertaining?  No.  Escapist?  HELL no.  However, I think it’s a good movie for all that.

Marriages don’t end in movies like they do in real life.  When they do end, it’s usually because somebody has been a bastard, has made some elemental mistake and ruined it.  In movies, relationships end after a simple conversation, and people leave them empowered and ready for a new start.  Also, usually, in movies one person in the relationship is completely 100 percent wrong, and the other person is a perfect angel.

Not so in Blue Valentine.  Wanna know the plot?  A couple meets and marries in the rush of new love, and about five years later the couple breaks up.  It sounds simple, but it’s damned uncomfortable–they cut the beginning and end of the relationship together, as if to remind us that yes, these are the same people, despite the differences.  And the big punch to the gut, around the time when the relationship is clearly and completely dead, it becomes clear that the big question that this movie raises–what did this couple do to end up in such a horrible place emotionally–has no answer.  There is no one event, one time, that things soured for them, it was where the relationship was heading from the start, and neither could have done anything to stop it, even though both of them try really hard to make it work.  I think that’s the most disturbing message this movie has, nobody likes to be reminded that a good percentage of things around them are beyond their control

I tried to explain this movie to G who called it a hipster Notebook, but that was from the pictures and he didn’t really know.  I think it’s like Neil Simon movies, because we’re presented almost a case study of this couple, their past relationship, the almost abortion, the meeting at the old people’s home.  One thing the movie is very clear about is how they both are essentially good people going into this thing.  My favorite scene is where Ryan Gosling’s character moves an old man into the old people’s home.  He works for a moving company, and the old man is clearly abandoned and unable to function in life since his wife died.  Gosling takes all his things and sets them up in his room and shows the old man where everything is, displaying pictures of the wife, as well as the old man’s old army uniform, and other mementos.  I don’t think I explained the scene too well, but trust me, it works like a charm.  Michelle Williams also is a good egg, taking care of her grandmother.   The relationship starting bit plays like just about any romantic movie–quirky dancing and singing, romanticism, being a hero, all of it.

But then there’s the other part.  One thing I took away from this movie is the idea that the sort of people who have an exciting falling in love experience might not exactly be the best suited to forge a life together.  They kind of take opposite skill sets, the first is endorphin rush and attraction and doting on each other–but really, that thunderbolt, isn’t that nature just working?  I mean, nature doesn’t care about your love life once you’ve bred.   It’s a lovely time, don’t get me wrong, and I don’t want to sound like a sour lemon here, but that beginning phase, it’s about rushing forward isn’t it?

However, what happens when the endorphins end?  For this couple, they are completely unsuited for running a life together, when it’s no longer a rushing forward.  It brought to mind that coupling is a great matter of luck, you might end up with someone who ends up being a great partner even when you aren’t feeling the warm fuzzies, and you might freeze into a cold existence filled with separation and drudgery.  Yes, of course there’s the old advice to work through the hard times and communicate and things like that, but the movie shows that it doesn’t always work.  At the end, neither member of that couple have anything much to communicate except for a need for connection that comes off so strong that it repels both of them into their respective corners.  To drive the point home, we see Williams’s parents, in a loveless marriage, a place full of suspicion, hatred, and tension.

I applaud this movie for going so deeply into ordinary lives, for not being lazy or glib, and to resist simple answers.  Kind of leaves a bitter taste in the mouth though doesn’t it?

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2 Responses to “Blue Valentine”

  1. CMrok93 November 12, 2012 at 9:26 am #

    Good review. Heartbreaking as hell and one of those movies that will make you look differently at love and the way you live your life. I don’t know how good of an idea that is, but it definitely provides a spell-binding watch.

    • pewterbreath November 12, 2012 at 2:49 pm #

      Thank you! I find that it’s strangely a movie that I admire and feel deeply uncomfortable about all at once. Definitely not the standard escapist fare.

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