Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Hot for BLUE VALENTINE Part Deux

Okay, so I saw BLUE VALENTINE. I have to say, the performances were fantastic. I do wish Michelle Williams' character was a bit more developed, but I think that's a script problem not an acting problem. It might not even be a "problem," but I do feel the film was lacking some in her character.

The film starts by just kind of dropping the audience into the lives of a troubled young family. There's plenty of bickering and blaming going around - she blames him for adding to her stress by behaving like a child (they have one kid - a daughter - she "doesn't need two") and he blames her for their lost dog - eventually found on the side of the road (not in a happy reunion kind of way). It's pretty obvious this is just a regular day of bickering, arguments and blaming - just so happens this is the day we enter their lives. The relationship takes a nose dive from there, but the audience is given a glimpse into how the couple met, fell in love, and ended up at this apex.

I have to say that I definitely felt the movie possessed a very male perspective - not that there's anything wrong with that. In fact, I think it's kind of interesting. REVOLUTIONARY ROAD was written and directed by men but had a very feminine feel to it, in my opinion. SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK was also written and directed by a male - but it's a much different kind of movie even though BLUE VALENTINE has been likened to it.

I've been thinking about the film and trying to come away with a major underlying theme - which I think would have to be Growth. At one point, early in the movie, Cindy (Michelle Willams) asks Dean (Ryan Gosling) about his hopes, dreams and aspirations. He admits to her that there was a time in his life when being a father and a husband was the furthest thing from his mind - and probably never wanted it - but now that's basically all he wants. He wants to put every thing he has into being a husband and a father. Cindy seems unsatisfied by his answer and questions him further but he doesn't budge. Dean is satisfied with his job and has no interest in changing it or striving for "more." It becomes quite obvious that Cindy has outgrown Dean.

The film is sprinkled with clips of the couples' past - when they met and fell in love. We're introduced to Dean during his struggle to get a job as a mover and fall in love with him when he carefully and thoughtfully sets up an elderly man's possessions as he's moved into a nursing home. We watch Dean study the man's photographs, war medals, and sentiments from his marriage of years past. We see how much Dean wants this man to maintain his sense of comfort, dignity and intact memories. The viewers observe Dean's sentimental side - his sweetness, empathy and compassion for others.

Similarly, we learn a little about Cindy. In college, we see her in a wheelchair, trying to "experience" the daily life of a paraplegic. She reads to her ailing and elderly grandmother in the nursing home (where she and Dean meet). We're also introduced to her boyfriend - a wrestler, who's bullheaded, domineering and controlling (not unlike her father). So, Dean, being soft, sweet and a romantic is able to sweep Cindy off her feet pretty easily. But one thing of note was how innately compassionate Dean was versus Cindy. It seemed compassion was more experiential with Cindy, she kinda had to work for it. I think this is the area in which I felt Cindy's character was lacking. Maybe it was intentional - maybe not.

I'm not going to delve deeper into the movie's details because I don't want to ruin anything if you plan on seeing it, but also because I'm pretty sure you get the idea of where the film is heading. I'd rather focus on the concept of growth. I really liked how we got to fall in love with Cindy and Dean falling in love but were also able to want more for each of them - individually and collectively.

When the couple met, Cindy had aspirations of being a doctor. Whether or not that would've happened if circumstances were different makes no difference. I think what matters is that we learn she is goal orientated - trying to better what she currently is/has. She's interested in evolving as a person. The whole idea of change is innate in her, whereas the idea of stability and sameness is innate to Dean. Dean was very happy to be living in the present and wanted to savor it - daily. So, how are these two personalities supposed to get along - Cindy wanting change and Dean wanting things to stay the same?

I once read one of those silly chain emails that got sent around with some funny sayings in it. One adage in particular struck my fancy: "Women marry men hoping that they'll change; men marry women hoping that they'll stay the same." I think this concept is one that many people are probably familiar with. A couple gets married, makes plans and then starts some daily routine that eventually turns into monthly routines and yearly routines. Because life itself can be generally stressful (bills, house/car maintenance, job woes, etc) a couple can easily grow apart - each trying to focus on surviving in his/her individual life, much less the couple life/marriage.

I've been sitting on this blog for about five days now. Since I don't feel like I have written anything of real substance, I thought about not posting it. But, I decided to post it anyway. I wish I could write something wise and revelatory about how to not grow apart in a relationship but I can't. People do grow apart, they do fall out of love, they change. Falling in love is amazing - it's wonderful and exciting and full of hope and promise. But then life happens and it's easy to lose sight of mutual hopes and dreams - sometimes they become less and less, or more individualized - as in the case with Cindy and Dean.

I know I've said it in a blog or two before, but I honestly don't think people are meant to mate for life, nor be monogamous - it's a social construct or norm that's been established and we conform with the social contracts. Don't get me wrong, I'm not condoning promiscuity or dangerous behaviors, I just think that sometimes social expectations are exaggerated and we set ourselves up to fail. For example, getting married because of pregnancy - does this really make sense? In my opinion, no. If the parents aren't truly committed to each other and serious about working on their relationship/family as much as their jobs, then it will fail and the child will have to suffer. I would much prefer to see a child visit both parents and have a calm and stable home life than have to live in a house with fighting. The kid just wants his/her parents to be happy - when they're happy, the kid is happy.

Regarding the monogamy part - I think we're human - we're animals and we possess instinctual behaviors. I do think it is possible to have a monogamous relationship. And, I think if you've reached an agreement with your partner to be monogamous, you should do everything in your power to try and live up to your end of the agreement. I also think some people are better at it than others - I don't know if this is biological or not, studies vary. But I do think it's somewhat unrealistic to think your partner will only want to have sex with you for the rest of his/her entire life. Opportunities will avail themselves - what you do with them is up to you. I can tell you right now that if Johnny Depp is willing, so am I - relationship or not! ;-)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hot for Blue Valentine

I've been anticipating the release of BLUE VALENTINE since January 2010 - literally. I remember looking through the Sundance line-up, reading about each of the films and coming across little film starring Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling - BLUE VALENTINE. It hadn't received hardly any press but I was intrigued. I really respect both of them as actors and think they have a complete handle on their craft. Dan, the programmer from Atlanta Film Festival at the time, was heading to Sundance and I asked him to see it but he didn't get the opportunity.

A synopsis of the film (from Sundance):
Blue Valentine is an intimate, shattering portrait of a disintegrating marriage.

On the far side of a once-passionate romance, Cindy (Michelle Williams) and Dean (Ryan Gosling) are married with a young daughter. Hoping to save their marriage, they steal away to a theme hotel. We then encounter them years earlier, when they met and fell in love—full of life and hope.

Moving fluidly between these two time periods,
Blue Valentine unfolds like a cinematic duet whose refrain asks, where did their love go? Framing the film as a mystery whose answer lies scattered in time (and in character), filmmaker Derek Cianfrance constructs an elegant set of dualities: past and present, youth and adulthood, vitality and entropy. The rigor of his process is visible throughout the film. Eliminating artificial devices, he has only the truth of the characters to work with. Because Gosling and Williams bring amazing intensity and emotional honesty to their roles, the experience of connecting to these two souls becomes truly moving.

I definitely don't expect the film to be a pick-me-up. But, because I've been anticipating the release of it for so long, Gabe (my business partner) thinks the film might not live up to my expectations - anticipation is better than realization, per se. I've thought about this many times and have wondered the same thing myself. But, since I'm not expecting it to be a particularly happy film, I'm thinking that it might meet expectations.

Gabe and I had a discussion about the film's topic - relationships - and I actually like films that tend to portray more of what I consider "normal" (married) couple behavior. I think it's perfectly natural to fight, hate, love, fuck, make love, withhold/deny sex, create hope from nothing and so forth in a relationship. All of these are human elements to me - as long as they are controlled by passion. If those things are done for other reasons, like maybe to control the other person or the direction in which one thinks the relationship should be going, then that's a completely different ball game. Films that don't show the human elements are just Hollywood fluff in my opinion. I think it's rare to find a couple still in love after 35, 45, 50 years of marriage. I'm not saying that it doesn't happen, nor am I saying that the couples don't care for each other - but I think the normal progression of things create tolerance, which leads to routine, which leads to habit - which most very old couples are in - they are in habit with each other, caring for and living with their life partners. (A lot of younger relationships are also in habit with each other, without going through the other steps - or speeding through them - but that's usually a different situation).

I love movies that illustrate these human elements. They don't always have to show the bad things - but not showing the tough times devalues the really good times, in my opinion. Gabe said he thinks a relationship's strength can be based on how well one, or both, people are at resolving conflict. I think he's probably right. But, a lot of times, at some point, the basis of conflict can no longer be resolved and that's when the relationship starts to break down - be it over sex, money, time, attention, expectations, whatever. Sometimes there comes a point where conflict cannot be resolved - and that's when marriages/relationships end. That's always such a difficult and harrowing time. A great example of this was the movie REVOLUTIONARY ROAD (one of my top 10 movies of the last 10 years). My take on REVOLUTIONARY ROAD can be found here.

So, I'm still very much anticipating BLUE VALENTINE's opening in Atlanta on Friday. I do think I'm open-minded enough to be objective about the movie and admit if I didn't like it, or it didn't meet my expectations. I don't exactly know the purpose of this blog, but just suffice it to say that I'm a fan of the human condition - be it in pain or pleasure, for how can you experience one without the other. So, that said, bring it on Weinstein Co.

So, until Friday............

For now, I leave you with the trailer for BLUE VALENTINE