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'Blue Valentine' has the blues

Published March 03. 2011 05:00PM

"Blue Valentine" is yet another example of Hollywood de-glamming for an Oscar.

The Oscar hunt here takes place in the semi-hinterlands of Pennsylvania namely, Carbondale, Lackawanna County, and Honesdale, Wayne County.

On the hunt for an Oscar is Michelle Williams, nominated for an actress Oscar for her role in "Blue Valentine," as an emotionally-conflicted mother and wife.

Alas, the Oscar went to this year's uber-favorite Natalie Portman for her role in "Black Swan" as an even more psychologically-troubled young woman.

In "Blue Valentine," Williams plays Cindy, a nurse whose marriage to Dean (Ryan Gosling), a house painter, is unraveling. She and her husband both love her daughter, Frankie (Faith Wladyka).

But, to rekindle their marital flames, Dean books a weekend getaway at a Pocono honeymoon resort. Scenes in the theme room, dubbed "The Future," are awash in blue light, hence the film's title. "Honeymoon Hotel" turns into "Heartbreak Hotel."

There are off-hand yet realistic scenes between Dean and Cindy and elderly persons, around the dinner table of Cindy's family's home and with Dean and a co-worker at the local moving company where he used to work.

The crucial question for them is contained in this bit of dialogue: "How can you trust your feelings when they can just disappear like that?"

"Blue Valentine" is another Hollywood attempt to profile lower-middle class life. Here, the results are painful, if not altogether unsympathetic. Small-town life never looked so unappealing and dismal.

"Blue Valentine" is possibly one of the highest-profile home movies starring A-list Hollywood stars. "Blue Valentine" imparts the sense of a student film.

Director Derek Cianfrance ("Brother Tied," 1998), directing from a screenplay he wrote with Cami Delavigne and Joey Curtis, tells the story in a non-linear style. Scenes, using the technique of cross-cutting, shift back and forth, with flashbacks to the marriage's early years and then back in the present.

Scenes are shot with available light, with actors' faces often in shadow. Grainy, hand-held, sloppily-framed cinematography if it can be called that predominates.

Intentional or not, some scenes border on the clumsily self-conscious when, for example where Dean serenades Cindy, who clumsily dances as he strums the ukulele and sings "You Always Hurt the One You Love."

The performances by Williams ("Shutter Island," "Brokeback Mountain") and Gosling ("Lars and the Real Girl," "The Notebook:") are very naturalistic. You really believe that they are indeed a struggling young, working-class couple.

"Blue Valentine" is one you may not want to receive. Nor should you want to give this valentine. It's worth a look, though.

"Blue Valentine," MPAA rated R (Restricted. Under 17 Requires Accompanying Parent Or Adult Guardian) on appeal for strong graphic sexual content, language, and a beating; Genre: Drama, Romance; Run time:1 hr., 52 min.; Distributed by The Weinstein Company; Continues in the 19th Street Film Series at Civic Theatre of Allentown Theatre 514.

Credit Readers Anonymous: The film was shot on Super 16mm and with the RED digital camera.

Box Office, Feb. 25: The third time was the charm or maybe it's a sign of spring, but on the Oscar's big weekend, "Gnomeo & Juliet," the animated 3-D comedy based on Shakespeare's "Romeo & Juliet" but with garden gnomes took the top spot, with $14.2 million, $75.1 million, after three weeks, and kept two new films out of first place.

"Hall Pass" opened at No. 2, with $13.3 million. "Drive Angry 3D" crashed, opening at No. 9, with only $5.1 million.

3. "Unknown," dropped from No. 1, with $12.4 million, $42.8 million, two weeks; 4. "Just Go With It," $11.1 million, $79.4 million, three weeks; 5. "I Am Number Four," $11 million, $37.7 million, two weeks; 6. "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never," $9.2 million, $62.7 million, three weeks; 7."The King's Speech," King George VI stayed at No. 7, $7.6 million, $114.5 million, 14 weeks; 8. "Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son," $7.5 million, $28.5 million, two weeks; 10. "The Roommate," $2 million, $35.9 million, four weeks; 24. "Blue Valentine," $234,000, $9.2 million, nine weeks

Unreel, March 4:

"Rango," MPAA Rated PG: Gore Verbinski directs the animated comedy and Johnny Depp voices Rango, a chameleon who ends up in the Wild West town of Dirt.

"The Adjustment Bureau," MPAA Rated PG-13: "Bourne Ultimatum" co-writer George Nolfi makes his directorial debut with the adaptation of a Phillip K. Dick short story Matt Damon stars as a politician who falls in love with a ballerina (Emily Blunt), but mysterious forces keep them apart.

"Take Me Home Tonight," Rated R: Topher Grace and Anna Faris star in the comedy set during Labor Day weekend 1988.

"Beastly," Rated PG-13: Alex Pettyfer plays a Manhattan man who undergoes a curse when he meets a woman who can break the spell, played by Vanessa Hudgens.

Oscar Picks: The 83rd Academy Awards, which were presented Feb. 27 were as predictable as they get. I guessed each of top categories' picks: Picture: "The King's Speech"; Director: Tom Hooper, "The King's Speech"; Actor: Colin Firth, "The King's Speech"; Actress: Natalie Portman, "Black Swan"; Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo, "The Fighter"; Supporting Actor: Christian Bale, "The Fighter"; Animated Feature: "Toy Story 3"

Two Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes

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