By Joey Hancock
Blue Valentine plays like a car wreck, you slow down to look even though you know you shouldn’t be so nosy. The film which was originally rated NC-17 and later switched to an R rating by the MPAA, follows Dean and Cindy, a young married couple, through their first six years of marriage. Derek Cianfrance, the film’s writer and director, shows the birth and demise of a relationship that you find yourself rooting for by the end.
Towards the end of the couples six year marriage, Cianfrance shows the mental and physical exhaustion that is crippling Cindy, these struggles do not bother Dean as long as Cindy stays his wife. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams play the Pennsylvania working class couple with a young daughter, who was born at the beginning of their relationship. Dean is a house painter with a drinking problem and no ambition while Cindy is a nurse who went to college to become a doctor. Dean and Cindy first meet at her grandmother’s retirement home, quite an odd place to meet your future wife.
At the beginning Dean and Cindy are goofy and playful which is shown in the scene of the first date where Dean sings and plays a ukulele while Cindy tap dances in a storefront. The relationship seems to be going fine when Cindy finds out that she is pregnant, and when asked by Dean if it is his she replies quietly, “Probably not.” This is the turning point of the relationship. Dean doesn’t care that the baby is probably not his, and he chooses to make it his own and to care for Cindy and the child. Dean and Cindy get married hastily by a Justice of the Peace and begin their lives as a family.
Over the next years of marriage Dean and Cindy grow further apart. Cindy quietly blaming Dean for the loss of her dreams, and Dean just being content being a father and husband. “Blue Valentine” switches back and forth from the beginning of the relationship to present day as if asking the viewer to find out what and when everything went wrong. The marriage isn’t ending because of a death or adultery like many films show. The couple has simply grown apart. Gosling and Williams play these characters with great style and ability. Any awards that come their way are greatly deserved.
Cianfrance’s script is a modern day love story that goes south quickly. Written well and directed superbly the film’s scope and perception of love gone wrong is one that anyone who has been in and fallen out of love should go see. Roger Ebert stated on his website that many reviewers have said, “Cianfrance isn’t clear on how or what went wrong.” This is left for you, the viewer, to figure out, and is anyone actually clear on what goes wrong in simply growing apart? I don’t think so.
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Thursday, March 03, 2011
The King’s Speech stammers it’s way into the hearts of the audience.
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Stammering or stuttering can be a problem for any person, especially if they are required to speak in front of people. For King George VI, the stammering King of England during World War II, this was an even more daunting ailment. Having to speak firmly and assertively on broadcasts to ease the minds of worried Britains during wartime weighed heavily on George’s mind and vocal chords.
Director Tom Hooper tells the story of King George VI superbly and artfully. Colin Firth, and Helena Bonham Carter take on the roles of king and queen with such fervor and realness that you want to believe these are the real king and queen of the time by the end of the film. Geoffrey Rush also presents an outstanding performance as Lionel Logue, a failed Australian actor turned speech therapist, and eventual best friend to King George VI.
Colin Firth, who is well known for films that center around love, such as Pride and Prejudice, shows a whole new side to his acting. Firth masters the stammer he must use throughout the film and has a seriousness that is needed to play a king, but also shows a vulnerable side when addressing his stammer to others. Firth transforms himself into the character as he does in many of his movies, most notably A Single Man. Helena Bonham Carter, who is well known for her out of the ordinary and merciless characters is loving and devoted to her husband, and she goes out of her way to help him.
The main scenes of the film center on Firth and Rush’s characters as they struggle internally and externally to stop the king’s stammering. Firth’s stubbornness as king and Rush’s outspoken Lionel clash and have a mental battle throughout the film that you can feel watching the movie. Towards the end of the film there is a critical scene in which King George VI finds out that Lionel’s credentials as a therapist aren’t what he told him they were. Firth explodes in anger and fires Logue, but he hears none of this. The argument continues with Logue asking the king why he should listen to him with the king exclaiming, “Because I have a voice!” This sentence resonates in the mind of the king as he realizes that he does have a voice and he can speak in a way that will make people listen.
Much of the film takes place indoors and the rooms are filmed with great precision and detail. Most historical dramas on kings of England show grand palaces and ballrooms. The King’s Speech is much more subtle. Instead of vast estates, the film is shot in small rooms and long hallways giving the film a more personal feel and a more intimate setting for the characters.
The film culminates on King George VI’s speech to the public on radio that explains England is entering the war with Germany. Firth and Rush are near perfect in this scene and wraps up the film with a feeling of accomplishment.
Sunday, February 13, 2011
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At first I was hesitant about seeing a movie directed by Ben Affleck because his last couple of directing efforts left a lot to be desired. It turns that as director of this movie he's exemplary and probably should direct himself more often, as he's done a great job both in front of and behind the lens in this excellent heist film.
The movie has three great robbery sequences and a car chase, all of which are directed terrifically. These set pieces frame the film well. The action scenes are graphic and suspenseful. The last one is a tense climax almost up there with Heat's big heist and helps keep the pace of the film, which threatens to slip too far in some of the more emotional parts.
The stark realism is what makes the movie. The characters are believable because they don’t come across as too slick and predictable, even the criminals come across as unassuming and ordinary people caught up in extraordinarily difficult situations. The old-fashioned back drop of Charleston adds to the grittiness of the movie.
The Town could have easily fallen into the trap of being a Heat rip off but the movie’s originality makes it one of a kind. This is an excellent addition to bank robbery films thanks to a strong dramatic script, a top ensemble cast, great action, and actor/director Affleck.