Review: Blue Valentine DVD

Blue Valentine DVD boxSTUDIO: Anchor Bay/The Weinstein Company | DIRECTOR: Derek Cianfrance | CAST: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, Faith Wladyka, John Doman, Mike Vogel
5/10/11 | PRICE: DVD $29.98, Blu-ray $39.99
commentary, featurette, home movie, deleted scenes.
R | 112 min. | Romantic drama | 1.33:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1/DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 | English, French, Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Blue Valentine movie scene

Love is found and love is lost in Blue Valentine.

A devastating dissection of a relationship gone wrong, Blue Valentine is a brilliantly acted and compelling movie that one can admire but find difficult to enjoy at the same time.

The film is written and directed by documentarian Derek Cianfrance with the intimacy and “you are there” feel of improv filmmakers John Cassavettes (A Woman Under the Influence) and Mike Leigh (Another Year) at their best.

Blue Valentine‘s story focuses on Dean (Ryan Gosling, All Good Things) and Cindy (Oscar-nominated Michelle Williams of Shutter Island) as a couple are caught in the middle of an emotional meltdown. Cindy once had aspirations of becoming a doctor, but she curtailed her plans and now works in a doctor’s office. Dean, a hard drinker with no career plans, has had jobs as a mover and a house painter and has long settled in as a family man who cares for their daughter (Faith Wladyka).

With tensions between the two mounting, Dean desperately attempts to rekindle their romance with a trip to a tacky theme hotel, but, fueled by alcohol, things go horribly awry. At the same time, the couples’ past, including their sweet meeting and courtship, is recalled in flashbacks, as are the events that led to the fraying of their union.

With its wired acting, intense atmosphere, ragged documentary look and bittersweet leaps back in time, Blue Valentine can be compared favorably to such other acclaimed films on the subject as Shoot the Moon, Kramer vs. Kramer and Husbands and Wives.

Some controversy was stirred when the MPAA handed Blue Valentine an NC-17 rating, primarily for the aforementioned scene in the hotel in which oral sex is strongly suggested although not explicitly depicted. Thanks in part to distributor Harvey Weinstein’s efforts, the film ultimately received an R-rating without any editing — all the while gaining extra publicity. It would have been a shame if the movie’s potential viewing audience or power had been compromised in any way.

Bonus features on the DVD are led by Cianfrance’s commentary track, a no-joke affair that finds him candidly discussing the film’s long gestation period (nearly a decade) and how he got his leading players — who were only casual acquaintances at the outset — to live together in a house for several months to “explore their characters” prior to the shoot.

Also included is a making-of featurette and a collection of four deleted and extended scenes that illustrate the improvisatory nature of the movie.


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About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.