Thursday, February 17, 2011

Michelle Williams, in Blue Valentine
approximately 75 minutes and 04 seconds
70.8% of the film

The film
The film centers on a contemporary married couple, charting their evolution over a span of years by cross-cutting between two time periods.

You can read my short review of the film just by clicking HERE.

I respect a lot the honesty of Blue Valentine, what I can’t love is the super-pessimistic attitude of the story. I know it’s meant to be hard to watch, and for what it’s set up to be: it succeeds. It’s a well directed film, but I really wouldn’t wanna see it again; however, you always hurt the one you love will make indie film history.

Michelle Williams as Cindy

When I was predicting the nominees, I said: Michelle won’t make it without Ryan, it’s either gonna be both of them or none. And I was wrong: she somehow made it, in what was a very competitive 5th slot. She had a great campaign and, most of all, a very interesting performance in a film that other actors sure talked about. Another thing I noticed on a second view was that the story is about this couple, but individually more about Cindy than about Dean.

Michelle plays Cindy, a character that we discover in two different situations: she’s a young woman, romantic and fun and in love, with dreams and desires; and then, 5-6 years later, she’s a mother, a wife, trying to balance her job as a nurse with the nervousness of her home environment and her feeling that she’s lost any love for her husband, Dean. For Michelle, for most of the time it’s like playing two different characters in the same film, but she’s good enough at it that we can understand the transitions of Cindy from lively to angry and frustrated.

I need to come up front and say it: Cindy was not my favorite character and for a big part of the conflict, I was more on Dean’s side. And while I wasn’t always a fan of the character, I also think that Michelle knew when to make Cindy likeable and charming, and she was perfectly in control of the character when she decided to turn her into a bitch. Cindy is a complicated character because, while I saw her as the one to blame the most for the failing marriage, I also understood her involuntary disliking of Dean and the fact that from where she’s sitting, she’s a victim, and someone who shouldn’t be blamed for wanting more in life.

I was able to understand all this because Michelle is very good at what she’s doing; also, knowing about the filming process of Blue, this is a natural, sometimes-improvised performance done very well. She’s always in character, she’s always believable and, considering the camera is always on their faces, every gesture of hers seems justified and meaningful in the construction of the character.

The young Cindy is adorable and relatable, and she’s so damn pretty and charming. I believed in the joyful side of the young years and I recognized that optimism, the hope that young people have. In the older Cindy, Michelle brings the passive-aggressiveness, that quiet anger displayed especially in the first scenes. I understood her acting choices, it made me uncomfortable, but it just went on to prove Michelle’s great understanding of the character.

But there’s still a bit of something holding me back with this performance, for example: I’m not able to point my favorite scene of hers – which could mean that I liked her all around (partly true) or that I just didn’t love the character enough to really care what was happening to it… I don’t know: there are a lot of good moments, and it seems like the perfect performance, but it might be just the lack of a wow factor combined with my hostility towards her character that makes me give her a , and not the highest rating, even though I’m not sure what she should’ve done differently. Very good performance.


Malcolm said...

Williams totally brings her character with grace. It's an emotionally complicated performance that completely sells the devastating nature of the relationship. It's amazing for me. :)

A 5 for me, I guess.

I'm excited for the next one No one's gotten a 5 yet! :)

Allen said...

Love Michelle Williams here! You and I certainly have different outlooks on Blue Valentine. I actually didn't think the film was that depressing, and I didn't have any hatred for Williams's character either. I interpreted Cindy as a confused woman, and Williams captured that so wonderfully. I was also so taken by how real and raw and emotional her performance was. She's a tie for first in my book!

So much word vomit :\

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

This is a fine writeup, Alex it sorts of captures so much that's right in the performance. It's a little off, not because Williams isn't fine, but because sometimes Cianfrance is working against them with the constant moroseness which is necessary in the present day but feels a bit too superfluous at times in the flashback.

(But, good God Gosling is marvelous, no?)

Deiner said...

I love her in this one :D

Shtajner said...

Very very strong 4 stars from me! I think she is the best nominee in a race that is lot better than the previous two (and among the last 15 nominees I think only Anne Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married was better than Michelle, but I could change my mind in favor of either Michelle or Gabourey Sidibe). I didn't like Michelle Williams in her previous performances, probably because of her constant neurosis in everything she does (I couldn't see any significant layers in neither Brokeback Mountain nor Wendy and Lucy and she was really annoying me). But in Blue Valentine every piece of her puzzle was almost perfect!
Why not 5 stars? I have to agree with Alex that it's very hard to find that wow factor (I actually desperately needed it, since I really wanted to like her this time), and it is much harder to find the favorite scene (not because of unlikable character, but because she is consistent throughout this little masterpiece I like to call "the best American film of 2010").
But what I can't actually agree with Alex is that Blue Valentine is more about Cindy than about Dean. The first impression is exactly like that, but as I was digging deeper and deeper I got to know Dean just slightly better than Cindy. And that's the reason why the marvelous Ryan Gosling got 5 stars from me (and so far the No1 position on my Best actor list)! :)
Michelle unfortunately didn't manage to sneak into the Top5 actresses, but it's not her fault at all. (But again, who can blame Kim Hye-ja of Mother, Birgit Minichmayr of Everyone Else, Jeong-hee Yoon of Poetry, Paprika Steen of Applause and Juliette Binoche of Certified Copy!)

Alex in Movieland said...

to clear up my "problem" with Cindy :)

- of course you can fall out of love with someone, BUT: I didn't appreciate her aggressiveness when it came to their relationship. I think she is the one to blame the most for that current state of the marriage. If she gradually had problems about Dean, she should've told them more often and louder, she should've encouraged a better communication, not hold everything in her and just explode after 5 years.

YES, Dean has a conflictual personality, I understand that - he enjoyes picking fights, but he's not the one to hold grudge (if you noticed). Because in their last scene he IS willing to change and he IS honest, but Cindy will not give him a chance, because she built this hatred against him, when it should've all been put on the table years before. She should've taken charge of her marriage problems earlier on, not let them build up.

and how can she push him away in the shower scene??? what a bitch! that really annoyed me.

Did all that make sense? :)

Alex in Movieland said...

an why I think it's more about Cindy than about Dean: Dean gets his moments where he talks about falling in love and everything. But when it comes to Cindy, we also know more about the history of the character and I did feel like the film is following Cindy more than Dean. But they're both leading, obviously.

dinasztie said...

I totally agree. For me a stron 4.5 and she's my javascript:void(0)second.

joe burns said...

I agree, though I would giver her a 4.5, please read my review!

I also agree that it's more about Cindy, then Dean, sice it follows her perspective more.

Anonymous said...

Good performance, if a little underwhelmed by her. I would be interested to know how you have managed to get those screencaptures and manage to rewind or fast forward (Im assuming) to time the performance since its still out at the theaters?
Does someone how illegal links!? ;)

Brad M.

Anonymous said...

btw, Portman is going to be a bitch to time, lol ...

Brad M.

Alex in Movieland said...


this is Europe, man. of course I have an fyc screener :D

time counting is always a bitch, but interesting. after more than 2 years, I have a good & precise system.