Alliance Films' May '11 Releases
Blue Valentine (May 11/11)
Directed by Derek Cianfrance, Blue Valentine charts the evolution of one couple's relationship from its meet-cute beginnings through to its crumbling state years later. Cianfrance, working from a script cowritten with Cami Delavigne and Joey Curtis, has infused Blue Valentine with a down-and-dirty visual sensibility that effectively (and instantly) establishes an atmosphere of gritty realism, with the authentic vibe heightened by the spellbinding performances from the film's two stars - as Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams become their respective characters to a degree that's nothing short of hypnotic. The time-shifting structure proves instrumental in highlighting the dramatic change in Dean (Gosling) and Cindy's (Williams) bond, as the palpable chemistry between the couple eventually gives way to a relationship based on arguments and mistrust. And as charming and engaging the scenes set in the past are, Blue Valentine begins to fall apart as it emphasizes Dean and Cindy's present-day exploits - as Gosling's Dean morphs from a likeable free-spirit into a scuzzy, downright reprehensible alcoholic who bears few similarities to his earlier incarnation. It does, as a result, become increasingly difficult to work up any interest in or sympathy for the characters' disintegrating relationship, with the progressive emphasis on Dean and Cindy's relentless bickering ensuring that the movie, in its latter half, adopts a vibe of serious monotony. Blue Valentine is, in the end, saved by its sporadically engrossing atmosphere and career-best work from its stars, with the film's unevenness ultimately preventing it from packing the emotional punch that Cianfrance is clearly going for.
My Own Love Song
Olivier Dahan's English-language debut, My Own Love Song follows two friends, Renée Zellweger's wheelchair-bound Jane and Forest Whitaker's dimwitted Joey, as they embark on a road trip to Memphis - where Jane hopes to meet the son she gave up for adoption more than a decade ago. Dahan has infused My Own Love Song with a deliberately-paced, almost oppressively off-kilter sensibility that does, at the outset, hold the viewer at arm's length, and there's little doubt that the film's self-indulgent atmosphere initially threatens to render its positive attributes moot (eg Zellweger's impressively commanding performance). It's the strange-yet-compelling bond between Zellweger and Whitaker's respective characters that inevitably compensates for the rampant quirkiness, with the film improving immeasurably as the two characters take off on their journey through America's south. And although Dahan has peppered the proceedings with a handful of decidedly questionable sequences - eg Jane and Joey's encounter with an unreasonably off-the-wall guitarist (Nick Nolte's Caldwell) - My Own Love Song boasts an engaging midsection that benefits from the inclusion of several unexpectedly engrossing interludes (eg Jane belts out a moving rendition of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land.") By the time the house-sized animated birds show up, My Own Love Song has certainly established itself as a distinctly odd (yet oddly compelling) piece of work that's destined to leave most viewers scratching their heads in confusion - although, by that same token, the film absolutely does work provided one is tuned into its extremely specific wavelength.