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WEINTSTEIN COMPANY

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Derek Cianfrance
Cast:
Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, Faith Wladyka, John Doman, Mike Vogel, Marshall Johnson, Jen Jones, Maryann Plunkett
Writing Credits:
Derek Cianfrance, Cami Delavigne, Joey Curtis

Tagline:
A Love Story.

Synopsis:
Blue Valentine is the story of love found and love lost told in past and present moments in time. Flooded with romantic memories of their courtship, Dean and Cindy use one night to try and save their failing marriage. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams star in this honest portrait of a relationship on the rocks.

Box Office:
Budget
$1 million.
Opening Weekend
$193.728 thousand on 4 screens.
Domestic Gross
$9.701 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English

Runtime: 119 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 5/10/2011

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Derek Cianfrance and Co-Editor Jim Helton
• Deleted Scenes
• “The Making of Blue Valentine” Featurette
• “Frankie and the Unicorn” Home Movie
• Preview


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Blue Valentine [Blu-Ray] (2010)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 5, 2011)

Every year, we find Oscar nominations for films that are utterly unknown to the vast majority of the viewing public. In 2010, Blue Valentine qualified as one of these. The little indie flick didn’t even pass the $10 million mark in the US, but Michelle Williams earned a nomination as Best Actress for her work in it, a fact that seems likely to ensure that it finds a bigger audience on home video than in theaters.

Valentine examines the lives of Dean Pereira (Ryan Gosling) and his wife Cindy (Williams) across a span of time. When we meet them, it’s ostensibly present day, and they’re a young working class couple with a roughly five-year-old daughter Frankie (Faith Wladyka). Worn out by the daily stresses of life, Dean wants to revive their marriage with a kid-free night of fun at a hotel. Cindy’s not too wild about this but goes along with the plan.

The film follows their interactions during that evening but also leaps to the past for additional information. We see how they met, courted and eventually ended up married with child.

Sometimes a positive can also be a negative, and that occurs with Valentine in regard to the film’s narrative. Don’t expect the movie to spoon-feed story and plot development, as it stays pretty loose. As we see the decline of the main characters’ relationship, we’re left to guess why; we get some hints as to potential problems – mostly due to Dean’s apparent aimlessness/childishness – but the events never give us any kind of clear information. It provides an understated look at the relationship’s evolution and decay.

And I admire that in many ways, as I prefer to have to think about the characters and situations rather than have the movie bludgeon me with emotions. However, Valentine may take it too far, as the film occasionally seems just as directionless as Dean. Too much of the movie just kind of waddles along without any apparent point. I suppose some will opine that these moments add to our understanding of the characters and their connections, and I agree – to a degree.

But Valentine veers into “enough is enough” territory on occasion, and it could’ve used tighter editing. Since the film doesn’t want to provide precise character beats, more isn’t better. “More” just means we see a lot of similar moments repeated even though they bring nothing new to the table. Rather than give us better-drawn characters, the personalities just get repetitious.

Of the two leads, I think Williams offers by far the better performance. While I can’t say I dislike Gosling’s work, he comes across as awfully cartoony and occasionally makes Dean feel like a lightweight version of De Niro’s Jake La Motta. Gosling’s Dean is such a clueless man-child that it becomes remarkable Cindy didn’t dump him earlier; while a consistently nice guy and devoted father, he’s genuinely annoying.

Not that Cindy’s a walk in the park herself, and the movie hints at serious Damaged Goods territory, such as when she mentions she had 25 or so sexual partners by the age of roughly 22! She’s dark and cynical and bears the scars of her parents’ poor relationship as well as an abusive pairing with Bobby (Mike Vogel), the hunky jock she left for Dean.

On the surface, Cindy should be just as one-note as Dean, but Williams delivers a much more multi-dimensional portrayal. Unlike Gosling, she doesn’t appear to attempt to channel another actor, and she avoids the traps into which a “broken” character like Cindy could fall. Williams creates a complex performance that elicits sympathy and understanding without asking for either.

During the disc’s commentary, director Derek Cianfrance often talks about the attempts to make the movie “real”. For instance, rather than have the actors pretend to wake up, he’d have them fall asleep and arouse them for real.

Why? Does he really think the audience will tell the difference between fake sleep and real slumber – and that it’ll make a difference in the result? It all reminds me of the potentially-apochryphal story in which Laurence Olivier tells a bedraggled Method-following Dustin Hoffman to try acting; rather than stage inconsequential scenes like this for real, why not just ask the actors to act?

I get the feeling Cianfrance became so wrapped up in “realism” tricks that he forgot to worry about the narrative and the characters. Instead, we’re immersed in “real life” moments that often go nowhere.

All of these pluses and minuses end up as a mixed bag, I suppose, and leave Blue Valentine as an interesting but not entirely successful experiment. While I admire its refusal to give us a simplistic take on a relationship, I do wish it would provide a tale with a bit more clarity and definition and less of a focus on gimmicks. The film keeps us with it but threatens to go off the rails a little too often.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B-/ Bonus B-

Blue Valentine appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. This was an adequate presentation but not a great one.

Some of that stemmed from the original photography, especially in terms of sharpness. Most of the movie looked pretty concise and distinctive, but lapses occurred, usually due to photographic choices; while not obnoxious in its use of “documentary-style” camerawork, it favored handheld shots and occasional instances of focusing on the fly happened. Those were the cause of most softness, though some other examples of less than exemplary definition cropped up as well.

Still, overall delineation seemed fine, and I noticed no issues with jagged edges or moiré effects. Source flaws were a minor concern, though. I noticed occasional small specks; while I doubt we got more than 20 of these, that was still more than expected from a brand-new film.

Colors varied depending on era and mood. Some scenes featured a blue tint – natch – while some were blown out and others looked pretty natural. When viewed within the stylistic choices, the hues appeared well-represented. Blacks were dark and deep, and shadows looked fine; I noticed no issues with excessive opacity in low-light shots. Overall, this was a generally positive image, but its various concerns made it a “B-“.

Though I thought the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Valentine also merited a “B-“, it earned its grade mostly due to a lack of sonic ambition – which is about what I expected from a character drama of this sort. Not much material existed to open up the soundfield. Music remained subdued, and effects stayed in the environmental range; some fireworks and traffic became the most involving elements. Throw in a little directional dialogue and that’s about it, but again, that was perfectly fine; a flick like this shouldn’t provide a window-rattling mix.

Audio quality was acceptable. Lines could occasionally be a bit tough to understand, but that was due to the cinematic style more than anything else; the dialogue sometimes got buried in the mix to a mild degree. Most of the material was concise and understandable, though. The light music seemed clear, and effects were accurate and precise. This was a consistently low-key track for a low-key movie.

The disc includes a handful of extras. We open with an audio commentary from director Derek Cianfrance and co-editor Jim Helton. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at inspirations and influences, cast and performances, camerawork and editing, sets and locations, music and sound design, and a few other production issues.

Unsurprisingly, Cianfrance does most of the heavy lifting here; Helton throws out a fair amount of information, but the director dominates. And that’s fine, especially since he offers a reasonably solid overview of the film. He can seem a bit too impressed with himself at times – his love for “realism” that I mention in the body of my review because a little annoying – but we still find a generally enjoyable, informative take here.

Four Deleted Scenes fill a total of 19 minutes, 45 seconds. We find “Relationship Talk in the Van” (2:52), “Makeup in the Rain” (5:36), “The Park” (7:38) and “That Face” (3:39). “Talk” is entertaining comic relief; it’d have been superfluous in the final film, but it’s amusing. The other three just ramble. They all show Cindy and Dean in their courtship stage, and they really drag. They’d add nothing to the film and just make it slow and tedious.

The Making of Blue Valentine runs 13 minutes, 50 seconds, and features remarks from Cianfrance and actors Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling. They discuss story, script and development, characters and themes, cast and performances, and working with Cianfrance.

Finally, a home movie called “Frankie and the Unicorn” lasts three minutes, four seconds. It shows a video shot by the actors during the month they spent getting to know each other. The home movie itself isn’t particularly interesting, but it’s a cool artifact of an unusual production.

An ad for The Company Men opens the disc. No trailer for Valentine appears here.

If you want a consistent coherent relationship drama, Blue Valentine won’t be for you. The movie tends to be hit or miss; it hits enough to make it worthwhile, but its sags frustrate. The Blu-ray comes with decent picture and audio as well as a smattering of useful supplements. I like Valentine enough to recommend it but I can’t promise greatness from it.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.1111 Stars Number of Votes: 9
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