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How to Crush Your Soul on Valentine’s Day

Posted by Aaron Munter on February 15, 2011 in Entertainment, Movies |

Blue ValentineThis weekend, my wife and I celebrated the holiday weekend as we do every year — seeing movies. If you’ve read the blog a bit, you know that it’s Oscar season, so the movie-watching is in full gear.

In a confluence of the calendar and the schedule of viewing, we ended up seeing Blue Valentine this weekend. It’s a good thing that we’re already married, because this is not a date movie.

The movie is a slow-motion portrait of the dissolution of a marriage, basically. Flipping back and forth between two time periods, we see the protagonist (?) couple during their meeting and wooing, then in the present tense, with tense being the operative word.

In some ways, it’s a picture of what happens if people allow one or two positive attributes dominate their personality — they become liabilities. Ryan Gosling’s character, for instance, is seen in the earlier period as a light soul, someone who eschews care and is a fixer, helping others solve their problems (including Michelle Williams’ character). In the present period, though, that care of those immediately around him becomes consuming. The result, ironically, is a lack of caring and responsibility.

Williams is nominated for her performance, and it is a strong one. Her character is a go-getter in the past, with big plans that get derailed. Whether it would get nominated in a year with stronger lead female performances is less clear, however — I thought Gosling’s work was just as strong, but he didn’t nab a nomination in part because the field there was tougher.

The movie initially garnered attention because of its NC-17 rating, which the filmmakers and studio appealed. The ratings board reconsidered and gave it an R instead, without the film being changed in any way. Upon viewing, it really doesn’t feel like an NC-17; rather, it falls in the middle of the R range, with some sex and language. Perhaps the NC-17 was because the sex in the movie is really, in some ways, anti-sex. It’s not passionate, and in fact, marks another milestone on the path toward relationship dissolution.

Indeed, the feel upon leaving the movie was blue, with a pall of sadness that lingered for a while. This was due in part to the performances, to the writing, and to the look of the movie.

So it’s a good movie, even if it’s not an upper. Worth a rental. Just maybe not on Valentine’s Day.

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