LYT vs. AFI Fest 2010: BLUE Like You

I've been seeing a lot of my fellow film writers on Twitter complain about some of their fellow audience members at AFI Fest, and it really is interesting how it breaks down. There are two completely distinct types of movie-douchebags at this festival, and in general it may depend upon what type of screening you are attending, as to which one you're likely to be sitting next to.


Type #1 is the street person. Someone who likely got in the rush line because, hey, free movie. This person is likely to be carrying a duffelbag and/or six plastic bags full of junk, smell like yesterday's cabbage, and be prone to yelling stuff at random during the movie. Can be entertaining if it's a dull movie. Give out free tickets in Hollywood, and this is to be expected, though it's a lot more of a factor this year than last. Again, I suggest to the AFI folks that you could improve things with just a minimal ticket fee. $5, or even $2. Crazy street people won't spend their beer money on a movie.


Type #2 is the industry douchebag, who comes to see a gala premiere at the invitation of the Weinstein company, then spends the whole movie texting. I was surrounded by three of these during the big showing of BLUE VALENTINE. And I had to yell at every one to get them to stop – these jackasses truly seem to believe their little screen is invisible to the rest of us. Or maybe they're conditioned by the industry to always be on call; in which case, hang out in the damn lobby.


Both types like to communicate with external forces, some more imaginary than others.

Blue Valentine

But aside from that, how did you enjoy the movie, Mr. Guy-in-front-of-Pee-wee-Herman-in-a-Florida-porno? Assuming one can use the word “enjoy” for what might be the greatest feel-bad movie of the year, I enjoyed BLUE VALENTINE a lot.


Let me preface by saying that one of the most tedious cliches certain critics use is some variation on the phrase: “Finally, a movie for GROWN-UPS!” It's often used by boring-ass grumps who hate action, sci-fi, horror, and anything that's awesome in favor of mediocre crap like THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT, a movie which makes the earth-shattering point that lesbians live normal lives.


But BLUE VALENTINE most certainly is for grown-ups, mainly because it deals with stuff only a grown-up can relate to, and that's not being condescending to the young; it's to say that a love gone bad not for any particular reason, but just because shit happens, and things fade over time, and the frustration of seeing that happen makes you passive-aggressive, which makes things go downhill faster...that's something you need a couple miles on the old odometer for you to have been through. It's controversially rated NC-17, most likely for a brief moment of male-on-female oral, which is pretty much automatic adults only by the MPAA rules, but aside from the stupid advertising stigmas such a rating brings, I don't see why that should be a problem. Sure, some teens may want to see this just for the sex scenes, but they'll be disappointed...this isn't made for them, and it isn't especially titillating (Michelle Williams is already naked in other movies you can see, kids).


Williams fans may find it entertaining that the movie begins with her looking for a lost dog, a la WENDY AND LUCY, but rather than meandering on this subject, we get a moment of her eating a donut while driving and blasting “We Belong” on her stereo (BENATAR POWER!), and director Derek Cianfrance instantly kills that buzz by showing us the dog, dead on the side of the road. This is pretty much what he does the whole movie, as it cross-cuts back and forth in time, between the happy early days of love, and the stale final moments of a waning marriage. I figured out he was doing this when Ryan Gosling's hairline started changing from scene to scene.


In the later moments of the timeline, Gosling's Dean and Williams' Cindy are trying to rekindle things by spending some romantic quality time in an odd sci-fi suite at a honeymoon theme motel (“We're inside a robot's vagina!”). This doesn't go so well; he boozes it up, she's on call at the hospital where she works.

In happier times, he's working for a moving company, and encounters Cindy for the first time at an old folk's home, where she's tending to her mother. They bond over a joke about a child molester, on the bus ride home


We learn via other flashes that “their” daughter is actually only Cindy's, the result of some irresponsible high-school sex. But the little girl gives Dean a heretofore unfelt purpose; he wants only to be a good father, and has zero ambitions in any other sphere.


And he isn't a mean drunk, nor is she a frigid workaholic...but you get the sense that if this marriage were to go ten more years, the pattern could fall in that direction. Both know they're drifting apart, and they hate and fear that fact, but are powerless to stop it, as sometimes stuff is just intangibly incorrect. You might call this the antidote to Nicholas Sparks.


Gosling and Williams are always good, and they work together as well as you'd hope. Even the stills of them during the end credits are compelling.


If I can enjoy this surrounded by some of the worst moviegoers imaginable, I'd reckon maybe you can too, in better circumstances.


Luke Y. Thompson is an actor, writer, and film critic living in Hollywood.

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