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Movie review: 'Blue Valentine' (3.5 stars)

Blue Valentine

Blue Valentine Credit: Davi Russo

Blue Valentine
3.5 stars
Directed by Derek Cianfrance
Starring Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams

Ryan Gosling is a rare talent, but he’s only been as good as the roles he’s been offered. Now, he’s finally hit the jackpot with “Blue Valentine,” an intimate look at the formation and disintegration of a marriage.

Known as the movie that got demoted (promoted?) from an NC-17 to R rating after the Weinstein brothers appealed the MPAA, “Blue Valentine” is so much more than the sexed-up movie that one might assume it to be. Toggling back and forth between the present and past, it shows how a young couple, Dean (Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams), met, fell in love, married, then fell out of love. (It’s nothing like that other time-jumping relationship movie, “(500) Days of Summer,” which was more bubbly and less trenchant.)

Despite his appearance — paint-splattered clothes and a cigarette that sometimes dangles from his lips — Dean is a romantic at heart and showers his wife and young daughter with endearing affection. Somewhere along the way, though, something breaks in the relationship. It’s hard to pinpoint how or where it starts, but it’s the kind of heart-rending malaise that springs from diverging values and a vague disappointment with how married life has unfolded.

Director Derek Cianfrance (who, incidentally, bears a staggering resemblance to Gosling) has written a passionate, sincere and unsentimental script that captures the thrill of falling in love and the subsequent heartbreak of losing that thrill. Gosling and Williams, good looks and all, succeed in playing a very ordinary couple whose lives have been thoroughly scrubbed of glamour. In their painful story, Cianfrance finds a moving universality.

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