The movie Blue Valentine disappointed me a bit. I had not seen one bad or even indifferent review of it before I went to see the movie, so I was expecting something fantastic, especially given my passion for dark emotional movies. My two cents is that the movie is good (that is, dark-ish and emotional as promised) but not that good. Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling are good, but I would not say that the movie is a “master-class” on acting, as I saw in one of the reviews.
As for the script, I was attracted by the idea of a detailed inspection of a seemingly promising relationship-turned-marriage-with-kids gone wrong, which I thought the movie would be about. However (SPOILER ALERT!), the fact that the couple’s daughter Frankie is not actually (that is, biologically) the daughter of Ryan Gosling’s character, I think seriously undermines the premise of the movie as a film about “every couple”. Even though it is never even implied in the film that the fatherhood issue is a problem for this troubled couple, I cannot imagine it not being an issue.
Psychologically, the emotional dynamic between the characters reminded me of that in Revolutionary Road with Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. In both movies, the female character is the engine behind the flow of events, while the male character is sort of going with this flow. Both Kate Winslet in Revolutionary Road and Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine portray strong women that are shaken by their realization of the fact that their dreams are not coming true. Kate Winslet’s character’s failure to become an actress means that she has no choice but to become a homemaker and a mother (given that Revolutionary Road is set in the 1950s, it is a problem), which is a tragedy for her ambitious personality. Michelle Williams’s character’s tragedy is a little more self-inflicted: in a way, she lies to herself when she marries Ryan Gosling’s character, hoping that he would change so as to become a more ambitious person, even though he never promises her anything like that, and it is pretty obvious from the way the story unfolds that he is likely to stay put in low-skilled jobs, which is not enough for Michelle Williams’s character, who is determined to become somebody. In Revolutionary Road, by contrast, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character is quite ambitious and genuinely interested in taking advantage of the promotion opportunity once it presents itself; a real man of his era, he just doesn’t get his wife’s tragedy. He sees that she is unhappy, and at first he is willing to go to Paris – for the lack of other ways to make her happy. From the psychological point of view, Revolutionary Road is a deeper movie than Blue Valentine as the former film explores problems rooted in the era and not easily solved by the people themselves, whereas the problems in the latter film could have been mitigated if Michelle Williams’s character was more honest with herself about her real desires and her husband’s real potential (I am simplifying, of course).
The bottom line is, go see Blue Valentine if you enjoy dark emotional-psychological films, but don’t expect it to be something extraordinary.