The great one was Blue Valentine.
As a group of young woman said on the way out, "Boy was that a downer!" And it is. Um, what did you expect? The good kind of valentines aren't blue. But it's also pretty wonderful and it never goes the obvious route. While it's about the end of a relationship, it doesn't paint either character as the good guy or the bad guy. I read a review that said that the Ryan Gosling character is the more sympathetic of the two, but I really think it depends on your perspective. I think I related to her side of it more even though she's the one who wants out.
And the screenplay is so smart about how and when we learn things about the couple. Some heartbreaking things. The small miracle of the story, which I didn't really notice until the second viewing, is that while it starts off almost feeling like a character sketch kind of thing, with little vignettes about the two main characters, every detail ends up being important.
But because of the order in which the story is told, nothing seems obvious. There's a moment in this film, near the beginning, where the Ryan Gosling character does something that made me cry both times I saw the movie. He's a mover, new at his job, and they're moving a very elderly man into an old-folks home. His boss tells him to empty the boxes, flatten them and get out of there fast. But he doesn't. Instead he carefully unpacks and thoughtfully organizes the man's possessions so he'll feel slightly at home when he comes in. It's so sweet it made me cry. Twice. And completely defines the character. And we know that the Michelle Williams character is across the hall in her Grandmother's room at the time. And they haven't met yet. So it's not a leap to jump to the conclusion that the plot reason for this scene will be their meeting. And from there assume that his sweet gesture is how he wins the girl over and gets that first date. But that's not what happens. At all. It's just so real and sweet. I don't think she ever finds out what he did... (Instead, she thinks he did something horrible.)
Another thing I noticed on second viewing was a line that seemed like idle conversation the first time. Tonight I realized that it was "the statement of the theme". The screenwriting gurus say that you should state the theme of your movie on page 10 or something... and while this so didn't feel like a movie that followed those kind of rules, it did follow that one. Ryan Gosling tells his work mates that he thinks men are the real romantics. They act like they don't care about love or settling down, until they meet the right girl, then she's all they want. Whereas women, with all their talk about prince charming make practical choices when it comes to choosing a mate. (That's not exactly, but the gist of what he said.) And it totally sums up the movie... or at least their two characters.
Great movie. Sad. Not a date movie (in spite of the sex). But so well done.
Then, I went to see Country Strong. If you've seen the trailer and, like me, thought it looked great... Stick with the trailer. Whoever edited that trailer together was a genius and made it look like the movie would actually be about something. Whoever wrote the script? Not so much. Trite and predictable and corny and cliched, and although sad stuff happens you don't care. At all. Because you don't care about the characters and the things they do and the choices they make aren't well motivated. I knew the reviews were really bad, but had to see for myself...
Just realized that, in some ways, it tries to be like a sports movie, with the big game at the end... but because there are no character arcs in the story, at all, we don't even care whether she
Love that Garrett Hedlund dude, though. Boy, he can sing to me with that sexy baritone voice anywhere, anytime. Looks mighty fine in a pair of jeans, too.