Saw Blue Valentine over the weekend, and at the last minute, it was inserted it as my #4 movie of 2010 and coined it one of the four movies of the year I was actually excited about when I left the theater/DVD viewing. Well, as excited as you can be about seeing the most painfully realistic movie depiction of the dissolution of a marriage since Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. You can almost call it a modern-day, redneck version of it, in the same way Winter’s Bone was a backwoods version of Goodfellas or something.
The problem is, Blue Valentine is now lumped in with just about every other 2010 movie I can only recommend it with an asterisk. I liked Black Swan, but wouldn’t recommend it to anyone with daughters that take ballet lessons. I liked True Grit, but would have a hard time telling anyone that doesn’t like westerns that they should run out and see it.
People should see Blue Valentine -- on one condition, before it ends its run at the Pocono Community Theater on Thursday. If you see it with your significant other, your relationship needs to be on complete, 100-percent firm ground. If it’s shaky at all, forget it -- you’ll be broken up in a month. If you’re married and you’ve been fighting lately, you’ll be divorced in a year. That’s not so much a warning as it is a promise. The movie initially got an NC-17 rating because of all the uncomfortable sex scenes, and yeah, they’re Halle-Berry-in-Monster’s-Ball awkward. All the reviews warned about those uneasy sex scenes, which was much appreciated. Made it easier to get in the right frame of mind to see Michelle Williams uncomfortably nude for about one-third of the movie.
But there should be some kind of relationship skull and crossbones on the poster. Like one of those old Mr. Yuk stickers, maybe a heart with its tongue sticking out. If you’re not ready for the ramifications, this movie could ultimately be responsible for the end of your relationship. Who knows, that may be a good thing if you’re living in a Seinfeld world and spend most of the day trying to figure out ways to break up with someone. If you want to give that final push to get over the hump, this movie will be the greatest conversation piece ever.
What fascinated me about this movie is that it was the complete and utter opposite of every love-at-first-sight romantic comedy ever made. If you’ve seen the trailer for the new Matt Damon movie The Adjustment Bureau, you know Roger Sterling comes out of nowhere as some supernatural universe watcher and tells Damon he was never supposed to meet Emily Blunt and that he’s not allowed to see her anymore or the universe could be torn apart or some crap like that. The next 1:30 of the trailer is Damon running around with Blunt defying the mysterious universe watchers. If you don’t know how it ends, you’ve never seen a movie before.
Well where the hell was Roger Sterling and his universe watchers when Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams met in Blue Valentine? It was an off chance of circumstance that depended on about 5,845 different things happening, and their random second meeting was even more of a shot in the dark. Yet these two completely screwed up individuals met, fell in love, got married, then predictably ruined each other’s lives and made the lives of about a dozen people around them miserable. If those universe watchers existed, the movie world never needed them more than they did in Blue Valentine. This movie inadvertently makes the case that there should be psychiatric exams before marriage to make sure two people like this can never, ever, ever get married, never be allowed to procreate and even never be allowed to meet. Comic books have crossover issues all the time, and now there should be movie world crossovers starting with Blue Valentine-The Adjustment Bureau. It’s the complete opposite of Sleepless in Seattle.
The weird part is, that’s why I liked it so much. You can only take so much Eat Pray Love before you need to see something you can relate to, not something you dream about doing if any or all of the following conditions existed -- abundant wealth, limitless paid time off from work, the complete and blatant disregard for the care and well-being of any children involved and supportive best friends who also have all of the above qualities. Blue Valentine is that kind of movie, one that makes you feel a movie instead of just watching it. GRADE: A-
As heartbreaking and real as it was, it was actually fun to enjoy this movie on another level: Trying to pick out all of the local stuff in the movie since it was filmed in Scranton and Wayne County. There were approximately 3,856,265 times more Scranton-filmed scenes in two hours of Blue Valentine than there has been in the entire seven seasons of The Office. These are the ones I came up with:
--The marriage scene was filmed at the former office of District Justice Robert Russell on Cedar Avenue in South Scranton. As an added bonus, Russell is the one that performs the marriage. I once fought — and beat — a traffic ticket there in front of Russell.
--Michelle Williams’s childhood home looks to me like it’s across the street from Nay Aug Park in the Hill Section of the city.
--The home of Williams and Gosling looks like it’s in the nether reaches of Wayne County. I’m guessing the Waymart area, but I could definitely be wrong on that. My guess of Waymart is because it looked to me like their daughter’s preschool-type-thing was at the Western Wayne school complex near Waymart. That’s just a guess though, I’m not very good on the back roads of Wayne County. I’m also guessing the Waymart area because the reports were always that it was filmed around Carbondale. I spent two years working in Carbondale and didn’t see one landmark of the city. Waymart is just on the other side of Moosic Mountain from Carbondale, so maybe that’s what they were talking about.
--(SPOILER, kinda) The scene where Williams runs out of the doctor’s office where she was going to get an abortion is actually filmed inside the Planned Parenthood on Penn Avenue in Scranton. I’ve never been in there, but I know the point of view to look at the former Howard Johnson across the street. The ironic thing is that I’ve been told that particular Planned Parenthood does not perform abortions.
--The scene at the liquor store is at the state store on routes 6 and 11 in the Clarks Summit area, my hometown. There’s a guy who’s worked there for years who looks exactly like Patrick Swayze, it’s complete doppelganger status. During the scene, they briefly cut to Gosling filling his gas tank, and it’s at the Sunoco station just off the Clarks Summit exit of Interstate 81. You can tell because you can see the sign for JJ Bridges in the background of the scene.
--They used downtown Scranton an awful lot for the flashback scenes, and they rode on the COLTS buses that also run to Mount Airy Casino.
--The five-minute college scene is filmed at the University of Scranton campus. I actually thought it was Marywood University at first, but the inside of the building they filmed at was definitely in the John Long Center, the school’s fieldhouse.
One thing I’m looking for is from the beginning of the movie when Williams saw, umm, something on the side of the road and stopped. I think it’s just outside of Honesdale, out on Route 191. If anyone knows the definite location of that, any of the other local shots or corrections on any of my finds, feel free to hit the comments.