"Blue Valentine" had its local Los Angeles premiere Saturday night during AFI Fest 2010 to an almost packed audience at Graumann's Chinese Theater. Having attended the world premiere of "Valentine" at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, I was curious what my reaction to the picture would be almost 10 months later. I came away even more impressed than the first time around.
Director Derek Cianfrance hasn't just pulled out stunning performances from stars Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, but the amount of subtle detail he has garnered in scene after scene has not been praised enough. The movie focuses on a dramatic day in the lives of a twentysomething married couple, Dean (Gosling) and Cindy (Williams), while flashing back to the circumstances surrounding their initial romance. Along with cinematographer Andrij Parekh and editors Jim Helton and Ron Patane, Cianfrance works with both actors to give hints about just how complicated and tempestuous their relationship is. Whether it's a smartly framed shot of William's eyes or Gosling's continuing childlike behavior, nothing is obviously telegraphed for the viewer. Instead, it's part of a larger canvas for the viewer to explore in what "seems" like a simple story (but isn't) and it's very impressive filmmaking from a director mostly known for his TV documentary work.
The only notable difference in the picture the second time around was a feeling the "Valentine's" climactic scene, which takes place in the kitchen of Cindy's childhood home, was significantly shorter than the Sundance edit. It still works, but didn't have the emotional power that it had the first time around. Additionally, it's worth noting that the film's NC-17 rating is utterly and absolutely ridiculous. I can't put into words how insane the MPAA board is for making that decision over what is now a much tamer sex scene than I remember from Sundance or have seen in numerous other R-rated movies. 'Nuff said.
Besides stars Gosling and Mike Vogel (Williams was not in town) there were numerous industry notables at the premiere including Robert Forrester, Thora Birch, Albert Brooks, Nicole Richie and John Cameron Mitchelle among others. This is one of the main reason AFI Fest is continuing to survive in a cutthroat economy for film festivals: it's perfectly slotted for awards season and brings out guild and academy members. But that won't help Gosling or Williams break into the Oscar race if The Weinstein Company sticks to its current plan of a Dec. 31 opening in New York and Los Angeles.
Why TWC is waiting until New Year's weekend when they are missing out on a key week for guild members in NY and LA to see the film in theaters during the holidays is perplexing to say the least. Sure, prestige competitors "Another Year" and "Biutiful" are opening the same day, but that's the point -- "Valentine" needs more air to breathe. The most obvious solution for Weinstein is to move the opening to Friday Dec. 17. The only other limited opening that weekend is "Casino Jack" which, a fine turn by Kevin Spacey aside, isn't much to worry about. It's not to late TWC. Do your picture a favor and give it a real chance to make some noise other than at the Indie Spirit Awards. Here's hoping.