I am probably one of the most enthusiastic movie buffs you will ever meet in your life. Hands down. There were times in the 1990s where I would spend an entire Saturday just watching movie after movie after movie. Even though some would argue that I had an underlying motive … which was the fact that I was pursuing a career as a screenwriter and filmmaker at the time … I would still assert that there is no better medium of enjoyable entertainment for me than a high quality feature-film.
Naturally, one would think that with a dating and relationships column such as the one I have here on glowbass.com, and my books related to interpersonal communication between the genders, that my favorite genre of movies would be romantic comedies and romantic dramas. Well, truth be told, not so much.
If you’ve ever wondered why you sometimes have to twist your boyfriend or husband’s arm to get him to join you at the latest “chick flick,” it’s because (warning: loose generalization ahead) the vast majority of men in society don’t feel as though the male characters in many romantic comedies and dramas represent their behavior and motivations as they really are.
Those women who love the classic “romantic fantasy” scenario, such as those found in films like Enchanted and The Time Traveler’s Wife, typically will express that the primary reason they watch movies is to escape reality. Hey, I love Star Wars and Back to the Future as much as anyone, but I also love high quality films that feature very real characters who tend to have behavioral nuances that would resonate with the average “Joe Schmoe.”
One movie I recently viewed that falls into this category is Blue Valentine, starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. I first discovered Gosling in a small role in the film, Remember the Titans, and I thought his underrated performance in Half Nelson was simply outstanding. Gosling has mastered the art of facial subtleties like very few of the actors in his generation. Williams, who was at one time engaged to the late Heath Ledger, delivers a knock-out performance as well. Both Gosling and Williams were nominated for a Golden Globe.
One reason why I love a good independent film is that you feel like you are “peeking in on someone’s life.” Even many of the so-called “Reality TV” shows fail to achieve that atmosphere. Blue Valentine definitely creates a sense that you are peeking in on the normal-everyday-not-too-much-happening-out-of-the-ordinary lives of Dean (Gosling) and Cindy (Williams). I will refrain from giving you too many details and spoilers, because I do not want to ruin it for those who plan on viewing this wonderful gem of a film. Let’s just say that this movie should be nominated for an Academy Award in the areas of Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay. Yes, it is that good.
Blue Valentine, plain and simple, is a case study in the rise and fall of romantic bliss and erotic passion. In many mainstream Hollywood films, infidelity almost always has to fit in somewhere in order to justify romantic chemistry commencing a downward spiral toward divorce or irreconcilable differences. Take your pick: Fatal Attraction, Closer, Tyler Perry’s Diary of a Mad Black Woman, The English Patient, and of course, Unfaithful.
Valentine is different. Dean did not cheat on Cindy, nor did Cindy cheat on Dean (or if there was infidelity involved, the screenplay does not hint at it). Dean, early in the film, says something that will catch the attention of most men’s ears: “I think men are more romantic than women.” I remember when I was in college, I once read a book where a psychologist said that the average man actually falls deeper in love than the average woman, even though the media and romance novels will have you believing just the opposite. This book said that the average man only really falls in love with one or two women in his entire life, whereas this same author alleged that the average woman will fall in love with four or five men in her lifetime, if not more (if you do your research, you will find that far more men commit suicide after a divorce or failed relationship than women do).
The film covers Cindy and Dean’s relationship from the time Dean lays eyes on Cindy in a nursing home, to the time their marriage is all but over. There is no “Hollywood” type dialogue in this film. This film is devoid of romantic caricatures posing as multidimensional human beings. There is no relationship “good guy” and “bad guy” in this film. Both Cindy and Dean have their share and balance of appealing attributes and not-so-desirable characteristics. The reality is, sometimes, one member of a couple just becomes bored and/or irritated with his or her companion. The two just seem to ‘grow apart.’ This is the basis for the main storyline in Valentine.
If you recall, I wrote a column last year entitled, Romantic Chemistry: You can create it, but can you maintain it? Much of the content in that column applies to the two leads in this film, as well as the content of two additional articles: 1) How women respond to you often times depends on the “Alpha” vs “Beta” dynamics and 2) Beware of the man or woman who hates being single. Dean came along in Cindy’s life, and said the right thing in the right way at the right time in the right place. On the positive end, Dean ended up marrying Cindy. On the negative end, Dean ended up marrying Cindy (you’ll get that in a second or two).
Two researchers, Karen E. Sims and Dr. Marta Meana, wrote a report entitled, Why Did Passion Wane? A Qualitative Study of Married Women’s Attributions for Declines in Sexual Desire. It highlights the fact that many times, a woman’s desire to have sex diminishes once she is married due to such factors as too much accessibility to their partner and too much familiarity between them and their partner. “Wow” say the men. Now do you believe some of the stories about married women in the Letters to Penthouse series?
I loved Pretty Woman as much as the next man or woman. The movie was a major hit at the box-office. In real life? I doubt seriously if Richard Gere’s character would have ever married Julia Roberts’ character. I seriously, seriously doubt it. Roberts’ character would have become another one of his “on-the-side honeys” while he was pursuing a woman with a higher degree of status and virtue. If the storyline was truly representative of real world romance, no one would have been motivated to see it. Both men and women would think to themselves, “That sort of thing happens every week. Why do I need to watch it on a movie screen?”
This is going to be the same unfortunate attitude that will prevent many moviegoers from paying a few bucks to see Blue Valentine. Regarding this film, they will say, “That sort of thing happens every week. Men and women meet each other all of the time and give in to the ‘warm and fuzzy’ feeling of ‘love.’ Then, real life happens, wakes them up, and they say, ‘this person irritates me. I don’t want to share a bed with them anymore.’ Why do I need to watch it on a movie screen?”
So you can ‘wake up’ before it is too late.