Way back at the start of January, I wrote a column (http://bighollywood.breitbart.com/ckozlowski/2010/12/28/blue-valentine-review-another-depressing-anti-marriage-offering-from-hollywood/) for Breitbart.com’s Big Hollywood that tore a new one into the movie “Blue Valentine,” which critics were basically treating as the Second Coming of Jesus in the form of cinema. The story of a couple from the moment they meet, through their marriage and all the way to their breakup six or seven years later, it was well-acted and had some interesting moments, but overall was one of the nastiest portraits of a relationship I’d ever seen committed to celluloid.
I mean, really – by the end of the film, the wife (Michelle Williams) is screaming at her husband (Ryan Gosling) that “I have nothing left for you! NOTHING!!!!” And what was Ryan’s big offense that led to that kind of treatment? He was a simple dude, rather than a rich or smart power figure; he was a doting father to a kid that wasn’t even his, as she got preggers by an ex prior to their marriage; and he was a little immature in his ability to fully relate to his young child. She had been a brilliant student prior to hooking up with him and knew that he was just a working-class Joe who broke a sweat for a living – and so I said it was clearly her fault that she picked a guy she couldn’t really love and gave up her dreams for too-early marriage.
I also said that no one in Middle America – or, hell, ANYwhere – other than critics and hipster knee-jerk liberals would wanna see a movie like that. I mean, who would, after a hard week at work, choose to grab the wife or girlfriend and say “Hey baby, I hear there’s a movie where a couple fall apart over the course of two hours and wind up screaming how much they hate each other, and the guy even questionably date-rapes her. Think that’s worth 20 bucks and two hours of our lives on a Friday?” I predicted that, barring a Best Picture nomination or an Oscar acting win, this movie would never break $10 million at the box office.
Guess what? It was only nominated for Best Actress, didn’t win, and topped out at less than $10 million. Yet along the way, film columnist Patrick Goldstein of the LA Times saw fit to mock me as just not “Getting it”, that it was ridiculous to ask Hollywood for a happy portrait of a stable marriage for once. At the time, I came off looking like I had my idealistic head in the clouds.
Well, I guess in some ways, maybe he was right.
I recently went through a relationship in which everything started off with as great a meet-cute as one could ever find in a classic movie, and banter worthy of “His Girl Friday.” It blazed quickly into what seemed like love. All was great with the universe – until my apparent love suddenly decided without warning that we were through and it was “time to work on our friendship.” ‘
I felt blindsided – just like the guy in “Blue Valentine.” And I was getting whacked romantically after just six weeks, not six years. I had to give my props to Ryan’s character for managing to last that long in the movie – a far cry from my initial musings that that or any couple should be able to live happily ever after.
Now, having been dumped after being out of the dating game for quite a while beforehand, I suddenly remembered that YES, it CAN get that bad as in “Blue Valentine” – well, minus the question of whether a rape was involved. The final night out involved her crazed drunkenness, leading to her attempt to videotape an arrest and nearly getting us both arrested as well, her collapsing completely on both an escalator and passing out on the floor of a Red Line subway train, and then her screaming at me that she was fine and that I had to get off the train rather than make sure she made it home alive. In other words, the equivalent of “I have NOTHING left for you! Nothing!!!”
Ah yes, it was a handy lesson in the fact that the faster, hotter and artificially better a relationship appears to take off, the more likely it is to crash and burn just as quickly.
But then again, movies also err on the side of being too sunny and perfect about love, as well. I had a terrific date last night with a great woman who appears to be incapable of turning into the Medusa my recent ex became. But yet my recent relationship – my first foray into the dating pool in at least 3 to 4 years, due to battling a chronic medical condition along the way – should also teach me not to assume that the great start to my new hopeful relationship means that things will be perfect at all times for ever.
Just as the movies can sometimes overstate how bad relationships can get or not offer enough ideal portrayals of happy intact families, they also commit the crime of building hope that Mr. or Miss Right is just around the corner, that if you’re lonely today, there’ll be love tomorrow. It’s a nice thought, but not often enough a reality.
Do movies therefore cause more damage by offering false hope, or soothe the psyche and spirit, giving us the state of mind we need in order to feel vibrantly alive and happy enough to give love a try? That’s a question that’s been considered since the days of “why did the chicken cross the road?”
But until I find the answer, would you grab me some Milk Duds and a medium Coke?