10 Critical Thoughts About… Blue Valentine

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10 Critical Thoughts About… Blue Valentine

Highly specific observations on the doomed-romance weeper with Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams.

Blue Valentine 1

Blue Valentine is the story of Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams), a young married couple running into trouble. Their relationship is built on thin premises, and the movie finds them finally confronting that reality.

1. It's like Buffalo 66 and 9 Songs had a sad baby.
Imagine the aesthetic and tenor of that Vincent Gallo indie classic mixed with the conceit of Michael Winterbottom's controversially racy relationship drama. I guess you'd call that 9 Buffaloes?

2. Shit gets real.
There aren't many movies that can so viscerally depict a relationship's end, and fewer can make me use a word like "viscerally," which I hate. Derek Cianfrance gives us a blunt love story that's unconcerned with being cool or "mumblecore." It's that brutal honesty that makes things recognizable.

3. It's one of those time-travelling movies.
The movie jumps around between different times and places of Dean and Cindy's relationship, showing us its romantic origins and its bitter end and sparing us its domestic middle. But it's easy to imagine what came between the bookends, and actually seeing it would only dampen the movie's rhythmic intensity.

4. The future sucks.
When burdened with selecting a themed hotel room for a romantic lock-in, Dean, in his Don Juanian wisdom, chooses The Future Room over The Lovers' Den. Symbolically enough, The Future Room is a cheap, dismal little bunker, more akin to a panic room than a romantic getaway. It's a shame Dean dropped out of high school, where he might've learned about metaphors.

Blue Valentine 25. Marriages don't begin in Williamsburg.
One their first date, hipsters Dean and Cindy jaunt through Brooklyn, playing ukuleles and dancing away their troubles. But I know that street corner — I've seen many a pair cavorting there through the window of my neighborhood bar. Nothing good comes of it, and Dean and Cindy learn this the hard way. That's why so much romance is sparked on the L train from Brooklyn to Manhattan, where you can flirt safely, knowing that romantic-comedic Manhattan is only a few stops away.

6. There's some really bad sex.
Oh, I'm sorry, are you here just for the much-ballyhooed, formerly NC-17 oral-sex scene? Then as punishment, you'll also have to uncomfortably sit through some terrible, awkward marital sex.

7. And the good sex is nothing to get worked up about anyway.
It's passionate and stuff, but, all in all, it's overwhelmingly tame. Basically, don't show up expecting boner city, or even boner village — although those tissues in your overcoat will still come in handy, for other reasons.

8. The Blue Valentine Mixtape.
Hip indie band Grizzly Bear does the music here. And though I'm not the biggest fan of hip indie band Grizzly Bear, it works. Still, maybe I'm a geezer or something, but music from hip indie band Yo La Tengo or hip indie band Galaxie 500 or any hip indie band from the lovelorn mixtapes that got me through high-school breakups would've been more fitting.

9. Thank you, Mr. Gosling.
Graciously sensitive to the plight of dudes who for years have had to compete with the soulful, impossibly romantic hero of The Notebook, Ryan Gosling is finally showing our girlfriends who we really are — desperate, needy children who are shitlessly scared of you not loving us. Now all we'll have to do is be slightly better than that to beat Ryan Gosling! We so owe you a beer, man.

10. But seriously, shit gets real-real.
Man, what the fuck, Blue Valentine? What happened to me in that theater? Was I drunk? Did you slip me a roofie, Blue Valentine? Because you kind of made me never want to do anything but sleep and cry.