Last night, I finally saw 'Blue Valentine,' the much whispered-about independent film starring Michelle Williams, of 'Dawson's Creek' fame, and the actor that played the young James Garner in 'The Notebook' [I know it's Ryan Gosling, but my girlfriend has a huge crush on him, and she hates it that he's known as the guy from 'The Notebook,' since he's done way better movies].
As I was waiting to enter the theater, surrounded by a horde of impatient Derek Cianfrance fanatics [I know they were there to see Gosling :o)], I didn't know what to expect from this little Harvey Weinstein engine that apparently could. I'd seen the preview, during a showing of 'The King's Speech,' but its slapdash collection of dialogue and ukelele-playing snippets didn't offer the slightest of clues as to what this film would be about (that's directed at the guy sitting behind me during 'The Kings Speech' that complained about not knowing what 'Blue Valentine' was about during the preview). I'd watched several of Michelle Williams' whirlwind promotional interviews on behalf of the movie - on 'The Daily Show,' I learned that the film had once received the MPAA's sexiest rating; on 'E! News,' I discovered that Williams' daughter, Matilda, has not yet seen her father's 'Brokeback Mountain'; and on '20/20,' I found out that Williams' costar, the opportunistic Ryan Gosling, most likely placed the actress in a romantic half-nelson hold during filming (that's directed at ABC, for following up a Heath Ledger segment with a super-flirty Gosling-Williams interview segment, during their piece on the film). But plot details? They were better left to those closest to Ms. Williams, I gathered.
I knew that the film was a foreign critical darling; every review coming out of Cannes and Toronto was a rave one. But I wasn't sure why French and French-speaking people were loving this movie with such a joie de vivre.
Lastly, I'd heard from my world wide web-savvy girlfriend that the internet community (ONTD) was abuzz with cautionary post-after-cautionary post, warning couples to steer clear of the film. It appeared that a single viewing of 'Blue Valentine' would destroy even the truest of valentines. "Why?" I wondered.
I just had to see this movie.
'Singles-only' caveats aside, I bought two tickets for Sunday afternoon's 5:30pm showing of 'Blue Valentine' and bravely showed up to the theater, girlfriend in tow. I figured that a simple movie couldn't hurt us, especially a Cianfrance film; besides, 'Blue Valentine' had long been slated as our first movie club selection for the month of January, for one reason or another (Gosling).
As we waited in the lobby for 'Theater 1" to open, I immediately began to second-guess my decision. I noticed only two other committed couples in the waiting area, among a crush of single women and bachelor internationals dying to get their latest Cianfrance (Gosling) fix. Was 'Blue Valentine' really that toxic to relationships? I nervously munched on my butter-less popcorn and soon noticed another disturbing phenomenon: outgoing 'Blue Valentiners' from an earlier showing - but only those in couplings - were leaving the theater in a state of severe depression. Significant others were clinging onto to significant others for dear life. What had Cianfrance done to them? I was about to find out.
To my relief, the opening credits rolled, and I gladly rolled with them - all the way through the highs and final low of the tumultuous roller coaster ride known as Dean and Cindy's marriage. What the film lacked in a credibly sexy male lead, it more than made up for with Ms. Williams' enchanting portrayal of the loveless 'Cindy,' a bluecollar nurse whose affection for her dreamless husband, 'Dean,' has receded with his hairline. Yes, the plot was a familiar one; admittedly, Mr. Cianfrance did not invent a film genre by chronicling a youthful couple's marital demise. But the genius director did offer us a hipper, fresher take on the marriage mockumentary, a revolutionary 'Revolutionary Road' for the Jen Lindley generation.
More importantly, those who have warned other halves against taking their other halves to a 'Blue Valentine's' day massacre have missed Mr. Cianfrance's point entirely. The film is not a forecasting of the doom that will inevitably befall all young couples in love. Rather, 'Blue Valentine' provided me with a priceless blueprint detailing the pitfalls to avoid in order to safeguard true love: if you used to play the ukele for her, don't stop playing the ukele for her just because she married you; if you used to dress hip and talk witty, don't dress and talk like a redneck just because she married you; if you used to be a dreamer, don't stop dreaming just because she married you; and never, never stop telling her how beautiful she is, or how much you love her, just because she married you.
Judging by the angst-ridden reactions of my fellow movie patron couples, many 'Blue Valentiners' may not reap the benefits of Mr. Cianfrance's relationship advice. That's unfortunate, but God knows I did.
I'm not sure what Mr. Cianfrance has done before 'Blue Valentine,' but I'm quite sure that his previous films are great, and that he's done it again (that's directed at the guy sitting next to me, who was screaming about Cianfrance having done it again as the movie was letting out).