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Blue Valentine DVD Review

Blue Valentine (2010) movie poster Blue Valentine

Theatrical Release: December 29, 2010 / Running Time: 112 Minutes / Rating: R / Songs List

Director: Derek Cianfrance / Writers: Derek Cianfrance, Joey Curtis, Cami Delavigne

Cast: Ryan Gosling (Dean Pereira), Michelle Williams (Cindy Heller), Faith Wladyka (Frankie), John Doman (Jerry Heller), Mike Vogel (Bobby Ontario), Ben Shenkman (Dr. Feinberg), Jen Jones (Gramma), Maryann Plunkett (Glenda), Marshall Johnson (Marshall), James Benatti (Jamie), Barbara Troy (Jo), Carey Westbrook (Charley)
Blue Valentine is one of DVDizzy.com's Top 100 Movies of the Half-Decade (2010-2014).Blue Valentine ranks 63rd in our list of the Top 100 Movies of the Half-Decade (2010-2014).

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Romance is one of the human experiences most often put on film, but it's almost always treated the same way. Typically, a protagonist seeks romance and ultimately finds it. It's a nice story motivation and something many can relate to, having encountered such a thing at least once in their lives. But what about the "happily ever after" that we accept as the fulfilling finale of such movies? Even if the commonly-cited statistic that half of all marriages end in divorce stretches the facts, the numbers aren't too far from that. Clearly, it isn't just death that parts couples once wildly in love.

Blue Valentine explores the lifeline of one romance, nonlinearly tackling both the traditional film focus (the happy, passionate start of the romance) and the gloomy frequent destination usually ignored (an increasingly loveless marriage). The film speaks volumes about both periods and uses their contrasts to chart the adult life journeys of the two participants.

Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams play an unhappy married couple sharing the future room in a themed motel.

Our first look at Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) comes several years into their marriage. Their young daughter Frankie (Faith Wladyka) is concerned that the family dog is missing. Though Dean reassures her the dog will return when it gets hungry, it does not. Cindy finds it dead on the side of the road and it is evident that the pet is a metaphor for the couple's love.
Untended and neglected, it too has faded from sight, quite possibly never to return. The dog's death gives Dean and Cindy cause to re-evaluate their relationship, which they do in a strained trip to a themed couples' motel, having dropped Frankie off at her grandfather's.

The uncomfortable interaction at the motel is gratefully tempered by many episodes from the relationship's beginnings. The couple is not at all destined for such unhappiness. As young adults, the two are full of life, humor, and aspiration. Cindy is studying medicine and has a hunky jock boyfriend. Dean has just started working for a moving company and displays unusual compassion for an elderly man relocating to a nursing home. It's there where the two meet, as Cindy is helping her paraplegic grandmother settle in. When they reconnect a few weeks later, the result of some legwork by Dean, the two are charming, attractive, and comfortable in their own skin.

None of those qualities remain in the apparent present day, which finds balding, messy Dean, his potential squandered, working as a house painter and Cindy as an undervalued nurse. They curse at each other, misinterpret one another, and communicate in fight. A divorce seems inevitable and necessary.

A mover in his younger years, Dean (Ryan Gosling) speculates on what women want. Sharing a bus, Cindy (Michelle Williams) smiles as Dean simultaneously compliments and insults her.

Those who love cinema for its escapism will be made uncomfortable by Blue Valentine's raw, gritty, honest, and realistic look at the dissolution of a couple.

This is the second narrative feature film by writer/director Derek Cianfrance, who followed his little-known, Sundance-playing 1998 debut Brother Tied (made at age 23) with a number of shorts and music documentaries. It is apparent that Cianfrance, who shares screenplay credit with Brother Tied co-writer Joey Curtis and novice Cami Delavigne, is not simply trying to go against the grain. Though it could be, the film is no angry middle finger to Hollywood romance as rendered by the likes of Kate Hudson, Ashton Kutcher, and Matthew McConaughey. Blue Valentine seems oblivious to the rest of the film world, which is in its favor as it finds its own offbeat rhythms and genuine, untidy emotions. The top priority always appears to be doing justice to bitterness often experienced and rarely celebrated.

In the hands of weak lead actors, the film would easily crumble at its core. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams ensure that doesn't happen. The two young pros open up and run the wide emotional gamut required of them, each showing depth and wisdom beyond their 30 years.

Returning from a 3-year hiatus, Gosling reminds us he is not content to accept the mindless heartthrob roles he must often be offered since The Notebook. He crafts an interesting character here, who doesn't talk or act like a 20- or 30-something from Florida. Dean is quite unlikable in the present, in sharp contrast to his undereducated but confident younger self. It is a bit of a stretch to unite the two personalities, but both are absorbing and inviting of sympathy. Gosling couldn't have been far from picking up his second Academy Award nomination.

Michelle Williams did receive a Best Actress nod, her first, and the film's only, Oscar nomination. She doesn't adopt an accent or make herself over in as dramatic ways, but she does her part to make Cindy both someone worth courting and someone you don't blame for giving up on marriage.

"Blue Valentine" opens with young Frankie (Faith Wladyka) waking her father (Ryan Gosling) over Megan the dog's disappearance. Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) share a sidewalk kiss in their younger, happier days.

Blue Valentine had a brush with infamy when it received a rare NC-17 rating last fall. Only around twenty films (among them Showgirls, Orgazmo, Bad Lieutenant, and David Cronenberg's Crash) have ever tried to make a go of that extreme MPAA designation feared by studios and theaters alike. Most of the time, filmmakers or their distributors edit the work to receive an R rating that won't limit their theatrical prospects so much. For Blue Valentine, The Weinstein Company appealed the decision and was able to secure an R without having to edit a single frame. The reason for the initial NC-17 was what the MPAA description deems "strong graphic sexual content" referring to and probably overstating the frank scenes contrasting Dean and Cindy's bedroom behavior in and out of love.

Even with an R rating, the film was never meant to play to the masses. Still, its $9.7 million domestic gross did stand 9.7 times the meager $1 million reported production budget, obtained in part by winning the 2006 Chrysler Film Project screenplay competition.

Blue Valentine becomes the second Weinstein Company release brought to home video by Anchor Bay Entertainment, turning up on DVD and Blu-ray today.

Blue Valentine DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Video Extras Subtitled in English
Release Date: May 10, 2011
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.98
Black Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on Blu-ray Disc ($39.99 SRP)

VIDEO and AUDIO

Blue Valentine looks great in the DVD's anamorphic widescreen transfer, which the frames the film in atypical 1.66:1. The low-budget indie documentary stylings and uncompromising tone come through in selective focus, grain, unsteady handheld photography, and assorted artistic flourishes, all of which are easy to appreciate (or at least tolerate) in the disc's winning presentation. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack impresses even more, delivering a good amount of striking natural atmosphere along with spacious music driven by Brooklyn folk rock band Grizzly Bear's moody score.

This deleted fight and make-up scene, used as poster and cover art, can be seen in its long, rambling entirety on DVD. Director Derek Cianfrance, on whose male pattern baldness Dean's older appearance is based, talks about his 12-year process to make the film in a commentary and this featurette. Frankie (Faith Wladyka) and the Unicorn (Michelle Williams) have fun in an unused home movie born out of the three cast members' month of playing family.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

Extras begin with an audio commentary by writer/director Derek Cianfrance and co-editor Jim Helton. The commentary benefits from the unorthodox production that preceded it. Leading the discussion, Cianfrance remarks upon personal things that influenced the film, deliberate designs, serendipitous moments, and, most extensively,
the realism of scenes shot (authentic wakings, moving, grave-digging, talent revelation, etc.). It's an engaging listen that enhances our perception of the film and explains why it doesn't feel like other movies.

On the video side, we start with four long deleted scenes (19:40) illustrating the film's improvisational nature. This lot consists of Dean's on-the-job relationship talk with his co-worker, Dean and Cindy fighting and making up in the rain (from which the movie's poster and cover art comes), a nighttime park episode that moves from nausea to affection, and a playful intimate exchange. While they ramble, all are interesting enough to merit watching. Even though these are nearly feature film quality visually, these bits oddly are not enhanced for 16:9 displays.

Next up is "The Making of Blue Valentine" (13:48). Despite lacking B-roll, overusing film clips, and getting comments from Cianfrance, Gosling, and Williams posed next to a poster stand, this piece does a good job of explaining the fascinating, long, unusual production process designed to maximize realism and create histories among the actors.

Finally, there is "Frankie and the Unicorn" (3:04), a cute home movie shot for the film (but not used) featuring young Faith Wladyka playing with and for her onscreen parents.

The DVD opens with a trailer for The Company Men.

The main menu loops a bordered montage of clips to ukulele music.

The disc is held in an uncut Eco-Box keepcase, which is topped by a subtly-textured cardboard slipcover repeating everything below.

In an instance staged for spontaneity, Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams reveal a secret talent to each other in character, with Dean playing ukulele and singing and Cindy tap dancing.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Blue Valentine might be too much of a downer for some viewers, but it does a most admirable job of capturing both the joyful beginnings and painful ends of love, devoting as much passion to the long-term challenges that most films ignore, without flinching. Authentically written, sharply acted, and skillfully compiled, Derek Cianfrance's resonant drama stands as one of last year's greater achievements and should definitely be seen.

It's easier than ever to see the film in Anchor Bay's satisfying DVD, which delivers a strong feature presentation alongside substantial making-of material. I can't guarantee this is a movie you'll relish revisiting frequently, but you'd have to be lacking in humanity not to be moved by it.

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Blue Valentine Songs List (in order of use): Ryan Gosling - "Unicorn Tears", The Dirtbombs - "I Can't Stop Thinking About It", Pat Benatar - "We Belong", Grizzly Bear - "Granny Diner", Department of Eagles - "In Ear Park", Ryan Gosling - "Smoking Gun Bleeding Knives", Grizzly Bear - "Easier", Grizzly Bear - "Lullaby", Matt Sweeney & Bjorn Ytilling - "North Haven", Matt Sweeney, Peter Raeburn and Nick Foster - "At the Drop of the Day", Ryan Gosling - "You Always Hurt the Ones You Love", Grizzly Bear - "Dory", Grizzly Bear - "I Live With You", Penny & The Quarters - "You and Me", The Platters - "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes", Grizzly Bear - "Foreground", Grizzly Bear - "Alligator (Choir Version)", Grizzly Bear - "Shift (Alternate Version)"

Blue Valentine: Music by Grizzly Bear: Download Amazon MP3s Buy CD from Amazon.com

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Reviewed May 10, 2011.



Text copyright 2011 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2010 The Weinstein Company, Incentive Filmed Entertainment, and 2011 Anchor Bay Entertainment
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