The romance genre is overrun with crappy movies; it seems like there’s a new one every week.
These movies (if you can call them that), like “Failure to Launch” and “The Love Guru,” give the romance genre a horrible name.
But that’s what makes director Derek Cianfrance’s 2010, Oscar-nominated, romance-drama “Blue Valentine” so refreshing.
It’s not sentimental, and it’s far from corny. In fact, it’s one of the few realistic romance movies.
Instead of chronicling a cliched “love at first sight” story, “Blue Valentine” follows a festering marriage.
Dean (Ryan Gosling) is an unambitious house painter and a hopeless romantic, while Cindy (Michelle Williams) works as an up-and-coming nurse.
The film’s strongest point is the chemistry between the two. According to NPR, Gosling, Williams and their fictional daughter all lived together for a month to prepare for their roles.
And it shows. They’re fully immersed, and because of that, the emotions seem genuine.
At times I felt like I was watching a real marriage fall apart.
When the couple fights, I feel for them. When they’re happy together, I’m happy for them.
For her performance, Williams even received an Oscar nomination.
And if first-rate acting doesn’t convince you to watch a romance movie, then the story should.
The jumps back and forth between the couple’s past and present keep the movie’s tone and story varied.
Cianfrance begins the movie with the couple’s present-day morning routine. When Dean tries to entertain their daughter by eating his oatmeal like a “leopard,” Cindy is far from amused. She argues with him over how instant oats are made to suit his maturity.
And while nothing major happens in those two scenes, the audience can’t help but feel that the two are tired of each other.
About 10 minutes in, the flashbacks focus on how the two’s young, happy relationship began.
These scenes are honestly touching. They contrast with the unhappy marriage that the viewer is first introduced to.
When Dean surprises Cindy with an album, she exudes joy. Dean says, “Everyone’s got songs, but they’re lame because they all share them. You know it’s disgusting. We have our own song.”
The expressions of surprise and happiness seem so genuine, they truly make the scene lovely to watch.
Contrast that with present-day Dean.
After the couple spontaneously spends the night in a motel, Dean takes the bus, drunk, to his wife’s work. He proceeds to confront her about leaving him in the motel and eventually ends up breaking a doctor’s nose.
These flashbacks help maintain a critical balance that most romantic movies tend to overlook.
Overall, the story is like life: there’s a lot of pain with some really good times thrown in.
It’s rare that I see that type of realism in film. I mean, 40-50 percent of marriages end in divorce. Why avoid that reality in film?
And critics from The Washington Post, Chicago Sun Times and San Francisco Chronicle, agree with me that “Blue Valentine” is excellent.
At the end of the day, “Blue Valentine” is a gem in the rough that gives me hope for the often trite romance genre.