MCN Blogs
Noah Forrest

By Noah Forrest Forrest@moviecitynews.com

It’s not what I wanted it to be…

Last night I was having a conversation with a friend of mine about Blue Valentine.  She wasn’t a fan of the film because she wanted it to be more than it was.  She was disappointed by the fact that the storyline isn’t particularly original or mining new material.  Basically, she wanted to experience something new in the pantheon of dramas about the dissolution of a relationship.

I both agreed and disagreed.  Part of me wishes that it wasn’t just a film about a typical, uneducated, blue-collar couple that are – from the get-go – not destined to be in a happy relationship.  What I’ve longed to see for years and years – and which fiction, film, theater, etc. have never been able to pull off – is a realistic portrait of how a happy relationship comes apart.  In stories of this nature depicted in fiction, like Blue Valentine or Revolutionary Road or Carnal Knowledge, it’s pretty clear that because of the characters involved and their different personality traits that these couplings are not going to last.  I think it’s fairly easy to take disparate characters and jam them together just because they’re attractive or because one of them is pregnant and then show the ramifications later on.  I suppose this is the reality for a lot of people that wind up with partners they don’t stay with, but I think a large portion of relationships die for more complex reasons than that.  And those deaths aren’t usually the result of one big thing or several big things, but rather a slow disintegration of passion and love.  Blue Valentine, as much as I really enjoyed it, does the typical move: it shows us the beginning and the end.  But as anyone who has ever been in a relationship, the real meat is in the middle.

However, that’s not what Blue Valentine purports to be about.  It sets out to do something specific and does it, so does that mean I should critique it for what I wanted it to be and wasn’t?  However, that’s a slippery slope as a film critic because then I could just apply that same logic to a film like Transformers and say that it’s a good film because it does exactly what it sets out to do.

So I think ultimately, we have to take into account what we want a film to be.  A film like Blue Valentine hits us hardest when we find ourselves relating to the characters.  The scene in the Future Room is a masterpiece because practically everyone I know can relate to one or both of those characters in that scene at one point in their life.  But, as a whole, I find it hard to relate to either character because they make decisions that I wouldn’t make and do a lot of stupid things, which is excused by the fact that they’re not particularly well-educated.  For once, I would like to see a film about well-educated people who make the right decisions in their lives and it still doesn’t work out.

So, who’s gonna be the filmmaker to volunteer for that job?

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“I never accepted the term contrarian. I think that’s offensive, frankly. And my response to that is: if I’m a contrarian, what are other reviewers? What I strive to do is be a good critic, not somebody who simply accepts the product put in front of me. I guess it scares people to think that they don’t have any originality; that they don’t have the capacity to think for themselves.

“There’s a line a lot of reviewers use that I don’t like at all. They say ‘accept the film on its own terms.’ What that really means is, ‘accept the film as it is advertised.’ That’s got nothing to do with criticism. Nothing to do with having a response as a film watcher. A thinking person has to analyze what’s on screen, not simply rubber-stamp it or kowtow to marketing.”m

“To me, everything does have a political component and I think it’s an interesting way to look at art. It’s one way that makes film reviewing, I think, a politically relevant form of journalism. We do live in a political world, and we bring our political sense to the movies with us – unless you’re the kind of person who goes to the movies and shuts off the outside world. I’m not that kind of person.”
~ Armond White to Luke Buckmaster

“One of comedy’s defining pathologies, alongside literal pathologies like narcissism and self-loathing, is its swaggering certainty that it is part of the political vanguard, while upholding one of the most rigidly patriarchal hierarchies of any art form.”
~ Lindy West