Betty Duffy

Monday, May 16, 2011

Movie Recommendation (offered with reservations)

"Blue Valentine" starring Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling. Currently on DVD.

The quick take: This movie is not for people wishing to guard their senses against salty imagery. This movie might, however, be a discussion springboard for married couples dealing with the darker issues that can befall a marriage in a fallen world.

Every so often, you get a glimpse into the secret life of another married couple that you feel a little weird about having seen. Maybe alcohol's involved at the card party and a couple's passive aggressive behavior towards each other starts to seep out. Perhaps there is some minor crisis or conflict that becomes the catalyst for pent up wounds from ages past to fart into the atmosphere with escalating intensity to a point of seeming no return: "blah blah Blah Blah BLAH BLAH and I HATE YOU!"

There's a moment of awkward silence, as all of the onlookers say a silent prayer, "God help those poor people."

I had a similar response to the movie, "Blue Valentine," a rich, heartbreaking portrait of a marriage on the brink, that nevertheless gives viewers the sensation of being a fly on the wall in a room where they should not be.

When the family dog goes missing, and turns up dead on the side of the road, Cindy and Dean send their five-year-old daughter to Grandpa's house, so they can bury the dog, and perhaps, protect their daughter from death. But in the course of the next twenty-four hours, old demons in Cindy and Dean's marriage will rise to the surface and put them at a point of even greater crisis.

Filmed in slow, gritty sequences, cutting back and forth between the past and present, the movie provides much to ponder for the Catholic soul, not least of which are the stains of sexual sin and how one's past can reverberate throughout the years, influencing the perceived self-worth of both oneself, and one's spouse.

In the earlier sequences, we learn what heroic leaps of faith brought these two into a marriage that finds them, not a decade later, stumbling over disappointment and negative habits of being towards each other that seem impossible to overcome.

At the same time, viewers can see plainly that these two are deeply in love with one another, and that their happiness and healing are yet within reach.

The movie doesn't give viewers the satisfaction of a tidy ending however. The ambiguous ending is what left me pondering how these two might be able to work things out. Three days after watching the movie, I'm still rooting for them, in the same way I root for Kristin Lavransdatter and Erlend after reading their marriage three times and knowing full well that their peace only comes with death. Good grief, People. Receive God's healing! Why are you withholding from yourselves and from each other the benefits of forgiveness?

Though there's one scene in which characters in Blue Valentine say grace before a meal, there's no indication that Cindy and Dean have a sacramental life. And yet, the basic premises of Christian marriage are perhaps what have kept them together thus far. In some of the more poignant lines of the movie, Dean pleads with Cindy, "You said you'd stay with me for better or for worse. This is my worst." Dean is, it would seem, a functional alcoholic, or at the least, a problem drinker.

And though it would seem that Cindy's darkest moments in the relationship took place before the wedding, her pursed lips and perturbed forehead say a lot about what she's added to the relationship since then.

In short, I know marriages that look like this one. And my guess is that most married couples will see themselves in some small part of the way Dean and Cindy relate to one another. Watching this movie with my husband, I think, made us both grateful for the recourse we have to sacrament and forgiveness. Love hurts. Marriage is messy. But God save it--it's worth working out.

A word of warning: As with most movies produced these days, the gritty realism and awkward exposure extends to the bedroom scenes. While the sex lives of these characters contributes heavily to the plot--ahem--I didn't need to see that.


Dawn Farias said...

Thanks for the review! I've been seeing this preview on On Demand and I like both the actors so it seemed inviting.

BettyDuffy said...

Oh, I hope you don't hate me for it. I'm starting to feel nervous about those racy scenes. Forgive me if you're scandalized by it.

Anonymous said...

I know what you mean about racy scenes. I watched the movie "The Lives of Others" and thought it was very worth watching, but some of the scenes made me feel voyeuristic. I did recommend it to others, but always with some hesitation.

BettyDuffy said...

It's really frustrating when those scenes are drawn out for no good reason, especially in the midst of an otherwise valuable narrative. But really, there's a slapdash of pornography in almost every movie made for grown-ups these days. And it seems sometimes the Indy flicks like these are the worst perps.

Dawn Farias said...

Reservation noted. :) We saw parts of Zack and Miri make a Porno on cable recently. Despite the title, I really thought the movie might be a good comedy that just skirted around the porno part. It didn't. And I was disappointed.

In similar news, I liked The Hangover but the after movie credits showed all these polaroids of pornographic scenes. I just don't see the point of all that.

BettyDuffy said...

I caught about five minutes of Z and M on cable, and it made me completely disheartened about the fate of civilization. I have to say, there was an attitudinal disorder about that movie that Blue Valentine doesn't share.

Kimberlie said...

This past weekend I went away with some mom friends. They wanted to watch a movie. Everyone agreed on "Hall Pass," though when I saw the preview I thought "this is going to be stupid." I didn't want to watch it, but was too afraid of looking like a prude to speak up. It was horrible. And then I was really mad at myself for watching it. At least the movie you saw seems to have some redeeming value in that it caused you to ponder and to be thankful for having a sacramental life. This movie I saw did have an "R" rating and it had some really pornographic scenes. Not only that, they seemed gratuitous in that there didn't seem to be any warning of what you were about to see (so I could suddenly have to go to the bathroom) but all the sudden it was just there and I'd already had that image before I could look away.

I thought Hall Pass was a sad, pathetic movie, that made me laugh in some parts because it was so incredibly stupid, but I just felt dirty afterward.

BTW - Blue Valentine was one of our other choices, but no one wanted to see that. I think I would have liked it better. At least it wasn't about spouses giving each other permission to cheat on each other. Sheesh! This is why I almost never go to the movies any more.

I know, I am just an old fart and a prude. I am trying to embrace that fact.

Misha Leigh. said...

Oh this makes me actually want to see this! And what you said about what he said: "...this is me at my worst" has stuck with me ever since I read this yesterday. What would it take for me to love my spouse at his very worst? I love your review.

PS - Thank you for your comment. It meant a great deal.