Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Hey Girl, Let's Talk About Ryan Gosling (Part 2)
All Good Things
I'm very surprised All Good Things didn't merit a wider release. Sure, it's dark and depressing, but it's a fascinating true crime story--made more fascinating by the skillful maneuvers executed by director Andrew Jarecki, who's previously directed only documentaries, to avoid being sued by the individuals in question. All Good Things is based on the life of Robert Durst, the heir to a New York City real estate scion. In 1982, Durst's young wife disappeared and has since been declared legally dead. In 2000, Durst's female best friend was found murdered in Los Angeles. In 2001, Durst's neighbor in Galveston, Texas was dismembered. Durst has never been charged with any of their murders.
As a fan of Unsolved Mysteries and Dateline, I was all over this shit.
As a young adoring bride turned ambitious medical student, Kirsten Dunst does a fine job portraying half of a marriage that slowly grows more oppressive and horrifying. Frank Langella turns in a predictably awesome performance as the anti-hero's father, whose secrets and lies were meant to protect and instead destroyed. Also, Nick Offerman (who was screwed out of an Emmy for Parks and Recreation) and Kristen Wiig (love her on Saturday Night Live) take four-scene roles and turn them into memorable characters.
But it's Gosling who's incredible here. His David Marks, the fictional version of Robert Durst, is equal parts shyly charismatic, socially awkward, and flat-out scary. You get the feeling Gosling took the role not because he really, really wants an Oscar (can I say right now how much that annoys me? Mark Wahlberg, I'm looking at you), but because he found it interesting. And the saddest thing for me, is how few people will see this bravura performance.
I was so excited for Blue Valentine. The trailer was charming yet hinted at darkness. Michelle Williams was always my favorite actress on Dawson's Creek and her movie career has been formidable. And Gosling. Playing a ukulele. Having sex. Aw yeah.
And I like movies about troubled, complicated relationships. Closer inspired me to cut my hair short. Plus, these films make me feel good about being single.
After viewing Blue Valentine, I left the theatre a shivering husk of a woman with my face set on perma-cringe, vowing to stay single forever and ever, amen. (I also felt really sorry for the poor misguided couples in the audience who thought it'd be a great date movie. I hoped none of them broke up immediately after exiting the cinema.)
It's not that Blue Valentine isn't good. Quite the contrary. It's fantastic. Williams and Gosling give stunning, raw interpretations to characters both likable and loathsome. The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous, the music cues spare and non-manipulative. And little Faith Wladyka is so sweet and natural, one of the best cinematic portrayals of a tiny child I've ever seen (despite the fact that she doesn't really look like either of her parents, which bothered me. Come on, how many kids are there in Hollywood? You can find one that looks genetically similar, casting directors. Do your job).
However, and this is coming from someone who loves sad movies about relationships gone awry:
Blue Valentine is depressing.
Really, really depressing. Slit your wrists depressing. Sex scenes that range from uncomfortable to downright painful to watch depressing. Oh-my-God-how-much-worse-can-it-get-oh-wait-there's-my-answer depressing.
When it comes to movies about troubled couples, 2008's Revolutionary Road had a bit of Of Mice and Men-style optimism, plus it took place in the 1950's which explained a lot. Last December's Rabbit Hole cut sadness with dark humor, and ended on a hopeful note for the protagonists' marriage. Blue Valentine does have a couple of happy moments (and maybe one very sexy scene), but as the movie progresses it's clear the main characters have no hope or happiness left. And it's a beautiful tragedy, but a tragedy nonetheless.
Basically, Blue Valentine is worth watching, but a) it's like putting your heart through a meat tenderizer, and b) it is mandatory to have your DVD's of South Park/What Not to Wear/fluffy show of your choice at the ready immediately afterward, to cleanse what will be your extremely morose palate.
Yet after all this, I still want to marry Ryan Gosling.
Hey girl, what can I say? He's hot.