Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams are compelling duo of 2010
Michelle Williams, left, and Ryan Gosling star in “Blue Valentine.”
- “Blue Valentine”
★★★★ (out of four)
2010, Derek Cianfrance, U.S., R
- New Films
Director: Gore Verbinski.
Starring: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher.
The plot: The story of a chameleon with an identity crisis.
“The Adjustment Bureau”
Director: George Nolfi.
Starring: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt.
The plot: A rising politician falls for a ballerina, only to be
stymied by mysterious forces keeping the would-be lovers apart.
Genre: Romance, thriller.
“Take Me Home Tonight”
Director: Michael Dowse.
Starring: Topher Grace, Anna Faris.
The plot: Set over Labor Day weekend in 1988, normally sheepish
Matt bluffs his way into a huge party, looking to impress his
Genre: Comedy, drama.
- Film Roundup
“The King’s Speech”
★★★★ (out of four)
I must admit some trepidation when approaching films that rely
on what could be perceived as “gimmick” performances — those
“challenging” roles that Oscar voters love but, in actuality, offer
very little to viewers looking for more than mere exaggerated
caricatures (e.g. Tom Hanks in “Forrest Gump,” Sean Penn in “Milk,”
Despite the sustained critical raves for Colin Firth’s
performance as the verbally impaired King George VI of England in
“The King’s Speech,” up until seeing it I remained skeptical that
even an actor as talented as Firth could transcend the limitations
of such a role — could craft a fully formed character and
performance that is defined by more than a stammer.
I responded so strongly to David O. Russell’s “The Fighter,” an
old-fashioned underdog narrative that wears sentimentality on its
The difference between Russell’s film and the dozens of other
similar, less successful sports dramas is that here, the filmmaker
lets emotion develop organically from the characters and their
histories. Instead of attempting to manipulate viewer responses via
swelling music and tearful exchanges and all manner of riffraff,
Russell (most noted for “Three Kings” and “I Heart Huckabees”) has
gone back to basics. For one, the film has a very rugged,
neorealist, almost documentary-like style that immediately lends a
certain degree of authenticity to the proceedings. Clearly, Russell
has seen Darren Aronofsky’s “The Wrestler.”
The filmmakers behind such adult-oriented movies as “Blood
Simple,” “Fargo” and “No Country for Old Men” might not seem like
the most logical choices to adapt Charles Portis’ classic western
“True Grit,” about a 14-year-old girl who forges an unlikely bond
with an ornery pseudo-lawman during their hunt for her father’s
killer. But the Coens are always full of surprises. They’ve dealt
with lighter material before (“Raising Arizona,” “The Big
Lebowski”), and with “No Country for Old Men” they displayed a
clear knack for working with a Western motif. Still, I wasn’t
prepared for the delicacy with which the Coens handle “True Grit,”
which is essentially a heartfelt family film set against a violent
“Black Swan” is Darren Aronofsky’s borderline-experimental
attempt to immerse the viewer in madness and, in effect, replicate
the experience of complete mental collapse. Naturally such a film
requires an intensely psychological approach, but to my surprise,
Aronofsky keeps everything under control in the midst of absolute
chaos, never allowing his wilder impulses to engulf the carefully
structured narrative. This is the work of a master.
Posted: Friday, January 28, 2011 4:52 am
Well, I guess it was bound to happen. Although I submitted my
year-end top 10 list several weeks ago, it shall have to be amended
to include one of 2010’s truly brilliant works: “Blue Valentine,” a
powerful deconstruction of a failed marriage that serves as a
showcase for not only Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, its
bright and talented young stars, but also for Derek Cianfrance, a
new director making his feature debut. (It would have come in at
No. 5, for those keeping track).
If you’re looking for “entertainment,” walk on by. But if it’s
catharsis you seek — if you love movies of such power and potency
that they seem to tap directly into your psyche and invade your
soul, in often unpleasant ways —then you owe it to yourself to seek
it out, no matter how painful the experience may be. And trust me,
this one’s a doozy.
Friday, January 28, 2011 4:52 am.