(WARNING – SLIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD)
Blue Valentine is remarkably similar to The Notebook. I know, right? Crazy talk. Allow me to explain. Where The Notebook traffics in romantic fantasy like your aunt’s favorite super market paperback, Blue Valentine traffics in hardcore cynicism towards the entire concept of love. It’s a complete poke in the eye of traditional “love at first sight” stories. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I mean there’s a reason the divorce rate in this country is over fifty percent and that millions of couples, for a lack of more poetic language, are f*cking miserable.
But if you want to be considered more than a puff piece (which I know Blue Valentine does and, for what it’s worth, I believe is), you really need to have something meaningful to say. Crapping on every obnoxious thing the up her own ass lit major in your economics of labor class purports isn’t a bad thing, but if you’re going to offer nothing in return, then what are you really doing besides stroking your own ego? This is Blue Valentine’s largest problem. It’s the story of a relationship that, at the end of the day, we know nothing about. And when we know nothing about the one singular concept your narrative is focused around, then we have an issue.
The film tells the tale of the relationship between Dean and Cindy, played respectively by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. We are introduced to the young couple several years into their marriage in which both are working parents of a toddler daughter. Over the course of the movie we are introduced to the fairy tale like conception of their relationship through a series of flashbacks. These run concurrently with the modern day depiction of the couple where, well, let’s just say Dean ain’t exactly laying as much pipe as he was at his old-time moving job. Know'm sayin'? *nudges random guy, winks creepily*
And herein lies the problem. Blue Valentine has no… middle. Instead of providing a traditional linear narrative, we are essentially given snapshots of the two characters during their pre-romantic bliss and post-romantic bliss. But we have no f*cking clue what drives them to eventually hate one another. It’s somewhat akin to the show Lost in that you don’t get to witness much character development, but are instead introduced to the characters' pasts over time through a series of flashbacks. Call it “character revealment” in lieu of character development.
It’s an intriguing concept, and one I think that when employed wisely can yield interesting results for the viewer, but when solely relied upon to tell a story, especially a story where the entire narrative is reliant on character development, makes the overarching narrative feel incomplete (not to mention it's a complete crutch when overly utilized).
Which brings me to my original point: What exactly did this movie have to say? That love is pointless? That we eventually turn into bitter assh*les no matter what? Or even something as simple as don’t be an idiot and where a f*cking condom?
I don’t mean to sound like an ass, because I genuinely enjoyed this film and I applaud Derek Cianfrance for accomplishing all that he did with his directorial debut. I just find it so frustrating that with such wonderful performances, such crackling dialogue, and such beautifully shot scenes all I can think about is the incompleteness of the story. I mean there are several scenes in this movie that are so freaking claustrophobic and intense and resonate such an air of hopelessness that I could feel my heart beating through my chest. And at the end of the day, it’s just like… ugh. Yeah, I'm sorry. I'm beating a dead horse. I think you get my point.
So don’t get me wrong. I really, really liked this movie. It was just so close to being a classic. And it wasn’t for the most annoying of reasons.