Blue Valentine - The Making of a Stoner Classic

By Nick Orsini

 

How do you justify the unjustifiable? How do you come to grips with a revelation so big, it could change the scope of very basic experiences? How do you bring your stoned self to watch Blue Valentine, in its entirety, knowing full-well the terms your mind will have to come to?

Somewhere, sandwiched between Robocop and Face/Off, I found myself in an altered state watching the unflinching, unraveling love story that is Blue Valentine. I assume most of you have seen it, but if you haven't, it's the ultimate breakup movie. Ryan Gosling's Dean does a 180 from a confident, eager-to-impress young man to a bitter, angry adult, while Michelle Willams' Cindy finds herself, along with her young daughter, in Dean's crossfire. The family dynamic, as well as Dean and Cindy's relationship deteriorates over time. That's about it. The movie is sad. Real sad.

That is, if you're watching it stone cold sober.

Can Blue Valentine join the pantheon of current stoner films; movies like X-Men: The Last Stand and Disney's Prom? The answer, unequivocally, is yes. Maybe it's Dean's hairline/glasses combination and how, by film's end, he looks like leftovers stuck in the carpet of the seediest Atlantic City casino. Maybe it's the final fight scene between Dean and Dr. Feinberg (Cindy's scummy boss) where Dean counts down the seconds before punching the good doctor in the face. To find humor in Dean crawling around, on his hands and knees, looking for a discarded wedding ring in the woods is oddly sick and twisted, but it has the distinct ability to test a person's limits; you're laughing, but you can't reconcile why.

That's how Blue Valentine snuck up on me. The relationship between Dean and Cindy is so over-the-top fractured and broken that you can't look away from it. You begin to replay every one of your break-ups and measure how they don't hold a candle to the break-up in the movie. The self-destruction is more than any Michael Bay disaster, more than the worst part of the movie of your life. To confront these things head-on can only elicit laughter. How have things regressed so quickly for these people? Who were they to start? Who are they now?

Then there's the courtship between Dean and Cindy, the good times they shared. I'm talking about the flowers that Dean brought with him when Cindy first invited him over to dinner/meet her family. I'm talking about the ukulele song that gruff, sensitive, younger Dean plays as a younger, free Cindy dances awkwardly on the sidewalk. These are things we do all the time in private. These are not public displays of affection, but rather intimate moments reserved for a select group of people. Why are we seeing these things? How weird do they make us feel? For me, it stopped being cute and began to become intrusive. My cloudy brain wanted some type of escape.

A great stoner movie takes you full circle. It's the tears you cry when Nicolas Cage harpoons John Travolta at the end of Face/Off. It's the joy when Danny McBride blows up a treeline in Tropic Thunder. Blue Valentine takes you to a whole new place. It's so personal, yet so over the top. It's a reflection on all of us and none of us at the same time. It's epic and small, with a hairline pushed so far into obscurity, you can't look away for a second.

Nick Orsini is a writer and bearded New Jersey guy. His work can be found here.

@NickOrsini