“Wait,” you say, “why is this in Oscar Talk? It wasn’t nominated for one.”
That’s right, it wasn’t. There are a few films from 2010 that got a lot of internet hype but barely got any Oscar attention, and I’m determined to figure out why. Certainly some of the smaller indie films deserve our attention just as much the Academy favorites.
Blue Valentine was actually only nominated for one Academy Award (Michelle Williams for Best Actress), and before I saw it I couldn’t understand why it didn’t get more love from the Academy. It stars notoriously powerful actors Williams and Ryan Gosling, both of whom have been nominated for Oscars before. Its script won the Chrysler Film Project in 2006, a competition awarding money for a script to be produced. So where is its Best Screenplay nomination? Why does Ryan Gosling not have another nomination under his belt?
The performances are completely naked and raw–never have I seen either actor throw themselves so completely into a performance. Gosling, I think, deserved a nomination even more than Williams, but his competition was a little stiffer this year.
It’s one of those films where dialogue is infrequent and soft, but it doesn’t matter because you can always tell what they’re saying. In that manner, the script is a total success. It never spells anything out for its viewer, but it manages to get its point across perfectly.
The film cuts between a married couple’s courtship and a weekend several years later at the presumed dissolution of their relationship. The scenes of their early and fast love are beautiful, not overdone or cliched in a single way. The later scenes are heart wrenching–the tension between them is real and so underlying that even the audience is at a loss for how to fix it.
It’s the kind of movie that can depress anyone no matter what kind of relationship they are in. Williams’ character asks, “How do you trust your feelings, when they can just disappear like that?” There is no silver lining to pick you up at the end. The film dumps you on the ground with its characters, and proves that it is true to itself.
The problem with Blue Valentine is the middle we don’t get to see. The script does not make Williams’ character relatable, no matter how hard Williams herself tries. As her husband tries everything he can think of to improve their marriage, she pushes him away. There is something in the middle we miss, and we want to know what it is, but the movie never lets us in on the secret.
I can’t say this movie deserved a nomination over one of the ten actual nominees, but I can say it has powerful performances that make it worth seeing. Just prepare to walk away from it feeling less.