Liz Smith: How Blue is ‘Blue Valentine?’ (Not Too)

Davi Russo/ The Weinstein Company

Also from our Liz: Would “Wonder Woman” be Angelina Jolie’s perfect role? …  and, ‘tis the season to…divorce!

“PEOPLE THOUGHT they were seeing more than they actually did. It was the emotion of the scenes, not the content that was so graphic.”

That’s what Harvey Weinstein said the other night after a Manhattan screening of “Blue Valentine.” This movie almost received a fatal NC-17 rating because of a steamy sex scene between Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling. It was producer Harvey himself who went before the ratings board and pled his case for an R rating, detailing sex scenes far more graphic than what appears in the film.

It is doubtful if many people will even recall the Williams/Gosling sex interlude; the movie’s overall emotional impact is that powerful!

“Blue Valentine” is a tale of young blue-collar love gone awry. Drinking, unwanted babies, affairs, hopes dashed. Be warned — not a feel-good experience. But it pulls you in slowly, filmed with unromantic realism. At times, at the beginning, it almost looks like a reality program, or an intimate home movie. There’s a sense of invading a private place; witnessing something genuinely personal, not a movie at all. This won’t be everybody’s gritty cinematic cup of marital hemlock, but the screening audience sat — literally — stunned as the final credits rolled.

Miss Williams and Mr. Gosling, under Derek Cianfrance’s direction, enact the unhappy couple with an intensity that alternately stops and bleeds the heart.

After the screening, which was hosted by the Cinema Society and Piaget, there was a party at Soho Grand Hotel’s Club Room. Miss Williams attended, her hair was super-blonde and her skin was super pale; she has just finished shooting “My Week With Marilyn” and though she really looks nothing like Monroe, there is a similar open, vulnerable quality—something in the eyes.

She remarked that she had no idea “there were so many layers” to Marilyn and that yes, indeed, she had seen all the movies, especially “The Prince and the Showgirl,” co-starring Laurence Olivier. (“My Week With Marilyn” is based on the “diaries” of Olivier’s assistant. Oliver was driven to distraction by Monroe’s issues. Years later, however, he would admit that her performance was brilliant.)

Somebody commented to Miss Williams that “Blue Valentine” left its audience wondering about certain things. It isn’t entirely clear what goes wrong in the onscreen marriage. The actress said: “But that’s like life. In relationships. don’t you always feel in the first couple of months you know what might break you up — you hope it doesn’t, but it’s there. So, that’s how the director, Derek, presented it. Nothing is ever entirely clear, is it?”

Actually, it’s pretty clear that Miss Williams and Mr. Gosling have a good chance at Oscar nods. (Both have already received Golden Globe nominations.)

And how satisfying that our favorite mogul, Harvey Weinstein, is having such a very good year, what with “Blue Valentine,” and “The King’s Speech.” He also owns the international rights to “The Fighter.” Mr. W. looked very good at the party that night, trimmer, and full of the old Harvey brio!

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NOT EVEN the sight of Angelina Jolie in flawless clothes, in Venice, with Johnny Depp, could save “The Tourist” from a deeply disappointing opening weekend and savage reviews. Well, the buzz had been dreadful, and when there are no (or limited) critic’s screenings, something’s rotten in the Grand Canal.

Aside from a lame script — the movie doesn’t know what it wants to be! —“The Tourist” harbors a truly essential flaw. There is zero chemistry between Jolie and Depp. They got on like a house afire on set, but you’d never know it from what happens onscreen. (It’s no Audrey Hepburn/Cary Grant “Charade” or Sophia Loren/Gregory Peck “Arabesque,” that’s for sure.)

They don’t even look good together. Jolie appears to be some alien species of super-beauty, all her features over-sized to an almost alarming degree. (Perhaps on her own planet, she is not so unusual-looking?) Depp appears unkempt, uncomfortable and, well — strange. (Perhaps on his planet, that’s charm.)

To be honest, I don’t think Miss Jolie ever pairs well with a man onscreen, romantically. Not even with her lover, Brad Pitt, in “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.” She’s too much. She’s a singular sensation. They keep talking about making a “Wonder Woman” movie. Miss Jolie is perfect in every way for that!

However, like Jolie’s last feature, “Salt,” this new one will probably earn back its cost in Europe and in DVD sales.

* * *

DO YOU think Miss Jolie worries that her movies aren’t always big hits? Please. With six kids and real issues to concern her, it is unlikely she frets on the vagaries of a career. She and Brad looked divinely happy at the London premiere of “The Tourist” and what else is there in this old life but true love?

Oh, I know you cynics are going to say: “What else is there?  How about divorce?!”  And to be sure I don’t ever recall so many split-ups within a two-week period, and right before Christmas. Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter (she plays his sister on “Dexter”) … Elizabeth Hurley and Arun Nayar Dylan Walsh of “Nip/Tuck” and his wife, Joanna Going, and, but of course, those luscious physical specimens, Ryan Reynolds and Scarlett Johansson.

Of the latter, at first it seemed a smart idea that they kept such a low profile, resisted efforts to tell us how hopelessly devoted they were, and were rarely seen together on red carpets or even concrete. When they were spotted within a foot or two of each other, it was a big story; they rarely looked amused or flattered by the attention. (It will be interesting to see how their future romances unfold in terms of going out, holding hands and giving the occasional public hug.) On the plus side, Scarlett and Ryan are conducting the impending divorce with the same reticence they managed in their marriage. No mess. No scandal. No children to ruin with bitterness. They’ll both survive to love again.

3 comments so far.

  1. avatar Maggie W says:

    A couple years back, I saw Ryan Reynolds on The Tonight Show. I knew very little about him. During the interview, Leno threw out that he was married to Scarlett Johansson, a big name. His anonymity at that time may be why the marriage did succeed for two years. Flash forward. A few months back, there is a photo of a very buff Ryan. He now has a large fan base and star power and like his wife, is a hot ticket. The marriage had gone a new direction. Both have said they spend much time apart, and that is never easy for any married couple, especially those in the world of glitterati.
    No interest in seeing Jolie and Depp together. It’s over kill and so predictable. Angelina was terrific in The Changeling. When cast aside a leading man, it’s all about the sensuality and gorgeous, sexy clothes, and her ability to turn any man into an adoring puppy, willing to follow her anywhere, complete with drool. I’m surprised Depp took the part.

  2. avatar Lila says:

    Angelina Jolie is waaaaay too thin to play Wonder Woman.  I just don’t find her believable in action roles later than her Lara Croft days.  She has the intensity, but during every fight sequence, she fails to suspend my disbelief… because she’s just too stick-like.  Sorry, but a woman needs actual muscle mass to have even a ghost of a chance to win a fight against an average man.
     
    Now, a character like Vasquez from Aliens, I can believe.

  3. avatar Mr. Wow says:

    Mr. Reynolds and Miss Scarlett always struck me as an odd couple.  But, as they really did keep quiet about their love and marriage, that’s only an assumption.  They might have had a lot in common. Back then.

    Interesting remark from Michelle Williams on relationships. She probably knew right off  what would eventually come between her and Heath Ledger.