Blue Valentine, a superbly acted indie drama about a middle-class nurse falling out of love with her working-class house-painter husband, is both a timeless look at how sexual attraction actually works and an increasingly timely depiction of male-female troubles.
Since director Derek Cianfrance rewrote his screenplay 66 times while struggling to find financing over the last dozen years, Blue Valentine wound up more socially relevant now than it would have been in the 1990s. The dropout-rate gap between males and females has widened, technology has rendered a strong back less useful, and illegal immigration has further driven down the wages of less-educated men.
The press has celebrated the decline of men relative to women (for example, Hanna Rosin’s Atlantic article “The End of Men”). Yet are women notably happier? Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner explained why his series’ JFK-era retrograde behavior excites contemporary female viewers: “What’s sexist in the office is fuel in the bedroom.” Blue Valentine is about a marriage running on fumes.
Michelle Williams is Cindy and Ryan Gosling is Dean. Each has been a minor star for some time, both earning Oscar nominations: he as a teacher in Half Nelson, she as the late Heath Ledger’s wife in Brokeback Mountain. (Williams and Ledger had a real-life child.) Williams and Gosling, both 30, are excellent at playing a five-year-old girl’s worn-down parents as well as (in extensive flashbacks to their first meeting) beautiful 20-year-olds. Cianfrance shot the present on harsh digital video, the past on warm film stock.
Roissy gives Blue Valentine a rave at Citizen Renegade.
In contrast, conventional movie critics overwhelmingly give the movie thumbs up, but have a hard time even grasping what it's about.