Ryan Gosling seems to be everywhere these days. Not that I mind. He’s not only good looking; he’s got that area of melancholy around him that reminds me a little bit of a very young Mickey Rourke. So irresistible.
I watched two movies in a row this weekend starring him, both picturing a marriage falling apart, with completely different approaches to the topic. Ryan Gosling was the only thing they had in common. The question is: Which one won this duel? Let’s find out!
First out was Blue Valentine. I hesitate to admit this, because you might take it the wrong way, but I actually fell asleep watching it. Please don’t jump into the conclusion that it’s a bad movie, because it isn’t. I was quite devastated realizing what had happened, and as soon as I woke up I re-watched everything I had missed and a little bit more to be on the safe side. However, the pace IS admittedly slow and it might not be the best pick for burying yourself into a sofa for some Friday night relaxation.
If you manage to stay awake, Blue Valentine gives very realistic portray of two people who fell in love once upon a time, but who apparently have slipped away from each other over the years and now it doesn’t work any longer. In a final desperate act to save their marriage, Gosling’s character books a hotel night for them, but the question is if it will be enough for them to rediscover what was lost. This story is told in a non-chronological manner, jumping back and forward in time, alternately showing scenes from the miserable present and events from the happier days when they first met.
So what about Gosling’s performance? Is he more than eye-candy for the ladies? Oh yes, definitely. Actually I find him quite unattractive in his older incarnation, not being a fan of moustaches and whiskers. We get to see him as a young, charming and imaginative guy, who transforms into someone who appears to be a bit of a “loser”, but at the same time is a great and loving father. He’s believable, and so is Michelle Williams playing his wife, who gets increasingly impatient at his lack of ambitions. It doesn’t feel as if the movie takes sides for either of them. They’re human. They’ve got assets and flaws, like all of us. It’s just that they don’t work very well together as a couple, not in the long run.
As I watched her complaining over him in one of the later scenes, the same words Kirsten Dunst told her husband in Melancholia came to my mind. She’s suffering from depression and has just ruined their wedding party. “But what did you expect?”
Everything that has gone wrong was present in the beginning of their relationship. But when wrapped up in the process of falling in love, they were unable to see it.
Talking about Blue Valentine I also have to mention Faith Wladyka, playing their daughter. Where do they find those brilliant child actors? The scenes where she appears and the interaction between her and Gosling is so natural that it’s more like a documentary than a scripted movie. Did she even realize she was acting in the movie? You wouldn’t think so.
All in all I liked Blue Valentine well enough, even though I wouldn’t put it at the same level as for instance The Squid and the Whale or Scenes from a marriage. I may be a little bit old fashioned, but I like when people talk in movies. You know, like having conversations. Not just looking at each other.
My second divorce movie with Ryan Gosling was Crazy, Stupid, Love.
If Blue Valentine lacked humor, this one had too much of it for my taste. Or rather: a little bit too much of the standard gags you find in box office successes. I suppose I’m a bore, but I don’t find it particularly hilarious to see people getting into a physical fight over a misunderstanding until the police arrives making them look like little boys, just to give one example.
That kind of scenes bring this movie to a lower level than it had needed to be on considering the topic, a marriage breaking up after 25 years and the middle aged man and woman being a t a bit of a loss how to proceed with their lives.
I would had hoped for a little bit more, especially since it’s written and directed by the same ones who did I love you Philip Morris, which I liked quite a bit, especially for being so unpredictable. Well, I tell you: this isn’t.
Sure, we get to admire Ryan Gosling’s six pack and there are a few scenes I figure could be considered equivoque, but on the whole it tastes too much like a family friendly Disney movie. Safe for grandmothers and anyone older than 13 years old, supporting traditional values and utterly, utterly predictable. Not even a bit provocative.
It’s not that I insist on that all good movies need to have an unhappy or ambiguous ending. Throw a glance at my “My life in movies” posts and you’ll see a lot of positivity in it. But generally – if you add a lot of sugar, you need to balance it out with salt, bitterness or at least some originality. In this case they didn’t get the balance right.
Steve Carell even says it aloud halfway through the movie: “What a cliché!”. This was probably meant to be funny in some meta, self-referring way, but thought to myself: “Sadly enough I agree with you.”
On the other hand, once again twisting the words of Kirsten Dunst. It’s a rom-com. What did I expect?
So what about Ryan Gosling? Actually he didn’t disappoint me the way the movie did. And I’m not just thinking about his belly (photoshopped or not). I liked his take on his slick character, which could have passed as a disciple of Barney Stinson’s. Apparently he’s capable of playing other roles than that silent, depressed guy, who speaks mostly through his eyes.
It’s time for a verdict. Out of the two movies I liked Blue Valentine best. That goes without a saying.
But if the competition stands between the two versions of Ryan Gosling, I’d rather date the one from Crazy, Stupid, Love. Who wouldn’t?
Blue Valentine (Derek Cianfrance, US, 2010) My rating: 4/5
Crazy, Stupid, Love (Glenn Ficarra & John Requa, US, 2011) My rating: 3/5