3.5 stars out of 5
Maybe, instead of talking about the "feel good movie year," we need a new category, the "feel bad movie of the year." True Grit, the other movie V and I saw this weekend, kind of calls into that category (and I mostly agree with Neal's review, except I would have given it 4 stars instead of 3.5). Blue Valentine is definitely a "feel bad" movie. It is the surgical autopsy of a relationship, told with intercutting scenes of is dissolution in the present and its birth six years earlier. Controversial because of two soft-core sex scenes (intercourse and oral sex) that won it an NC-17 rating, dropped to an R after appeal, this clever and artistic film does indeed make the case that the rating system is broken. It also makes the case that everyone involved is either a brilliant actor or a brilliant film maker. It is not much fun to watch, except on the intellectual level. I'll repeat a warning you may already have heard; don't see it with your significant other if you are at the start or end of a relationship--too scary or too painful. A side note: my wife the therapist says that despite the apparently bleak condition of the marriage at the end of the film, "I've seen worse situations in which they stayed together. This marriage may not be over yet."
One other thing I like about this film; it subverts an ancient and immutable Hollywood trope. Whenever the female lead of a film has a choice between two men, the movies have always taught us that the poor but plucky one is the catch, not the wealthy one. In this case, the lead chooses the son of a janitor over the college student. Now the college student is a right twit, but really, could he possibly have worked out any worse? The way I see it, this movie is the antidote to that trope: you find out what happens if the girl actually DOES marry the inappropriate boy. And it isn't pretty.