BLUE VALENTINE (2010/IN THEATERS) Have you ever heard that the characteristic that most draws you to a person is usually the thing that eventually makes you hate them? Derek Cianfrance made a whole movie about this concept! And man, is it depressing! Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling are just as fascinating as you’ve heard as a couple crumbling in present day, and falling in love about five years prior. You’ve overheard this couple’s tense grocery store conversation in the frozen foods aisle and tried to pretend that you didn’t. You’ve felt sorry for their cute kid and wondered what drew these two angry people together in the first place.
The kitchen sink realism of the present-day couple’s sleight weight gains, Gosling wearing clothes that seemed cute and ironic when he was young and are embarrassing as an adult (eg, an eagle sweatshirt, tinted eyeglasses), and Williams’ tacky French manicure and drugstore hairclip give the movie an authentic, familiar look; the subtle personality changes the two undergo as their relationship begins to curdle make typical romantic dramas (say, Two Lovers, which is a conversation for another day) seem embarrassingly artificial by comparison.
Probably the most devastating scene, other than the final confrontation that ends in literal fireworks, is when the two put on a mix CD Gosling made for Williams at the start of their relationship (featuring their song, “You and Me” by Penny & the Quarters) while on an overnight trip to the saddest theme motel (in the “Future Room,” which looks a like a repurposed meat locker with a revolving bed). They try to force a romantic slow dance, but you can feel how awkward they’ve become with each other, and how frustrating it is to try to find a spark with someone who’s disappointed you over and over.
As a public service to animal freaks like myself, allow me to warn you of a (SPOILER) very sweet, very dead dog that serves as an early-movie harbinger of things to come. On my scale of 1 to 4 warning barks, I give it 3 barks.