I saw Blue Valentine a week ago and was just unable to get the review out before the Golden Globes took me as a prisoner. Luckily I have my original reaction to the film in writing so I can give you guys an honest first impression. I feel the same today as I did leaving the theater.
The movie made me angry, which could be argued that that was the purpose of the film. It's provocative and frustrating and it's supposed to get a rise out of you. However... there were a few things that I thought were off. I left feeling frustrated, not just because of the story, but also how it was told.
First of all, the story is about the demise of a relationship and it's told in flash back with scenes from the beginning of their love interspersed throughout scenes from the ending of their marriage. As characters and plot go, I don't have much to complain about. It was a passionate, tragic, raw look into what it's like to watch a relationship fall to pieces. I was frustrated within these constraints for all the right reason. My perspective was that the character, Cindy (Williams), wasn't fair to her husband. All Dean (Gosling) wanted to do was love her, and she was so closed up and noncommunicative that she made him bitter, which eventually lead to them not being able to work together. She should have communicated her needs and he would have done anything for her.
It was easy for me to pick Dean's side because Cindy's character seemed selfish and cowardly while Dean would have changed whatever it took, if she had only spoken the words. However, she spends years NEVER voicing her issues. Despite my frustrations with the characters (which is a testament to the actors), they were played to perfection. The performances are amazing and worthy of awards. It's a TRAVESTY that Ryan Gosling didn't receive an Oscar nom for this role. Especially with his precious interpretation of love that he does so well. The story and portrayals were great. No complaints there. Those parts achieved all they were meant to.
On the other hand, there were two things that bothered me about the film itself. Firstly... the dialogue was... to be desired, for lack of a better description. So many times when these two characters were talking to each other, they could only barely express themselves, and when they did they just repeated one of two phrases over and over again. "Babe! Babe!" "I can't do this! I can't do this!" BE SPECIFIC. Now, I understand that this is truly how many real couples communicate when in a fight, and I understand that that was the point. I get it. HOWEVER, even if that's true, in a movie they need to have a script with a few better lines than that, because I became distracted away from the story because I was so frustrated with how repetitive it had become.
Secondly, I thought some of the shots were too tight. I understand the idea behind it, that in present day the two lovers felt suffocated, and the tight shots were to help us feel that way, but it was TOO much. There was a line and they crossed it. They should have pulled back in a few places and I would have been more emotional about it and less distracted or irritated. It gave me a headache at one point.
In the end, it was ALL great, and I think I liked it, though, they went a centimeter over the line on all the things I am annoyed about. It is not enough to make me dislike it but enough for me to notice and leave upset and confused about it. Had it been slightly tweaked, I think I would have left much less distracted and much more devastated and satisfied by this film.
No matter what, it is worth seeing at least once, no matter your reservations, because these performances were beautiful. (If any of you were worried about the original NC17 rating, they cut one of the scenes that made it that way, and everything else is pretty neutral. It's not outrageous.)