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Blue Valentine: View From a Bridge

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In a beautifully crafted movie poised for awards and holiday box office, Blue Valentine puts a wacky mirror on that fragile thing: marriage.

Moving back and forth in easy yet thrilling fluidly from the present problems to past passions, Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) try to repair their romance in a future themed motel room with a rotating bed that gets a lot of laughs. As illustrated here, between these two people who are at times mature, at others infantile, marriage on the fritz is not funny, but wrenching. Flashbacks to their courtship feature some of the sweetest sex ever shown in movies; the raw magnetism is important to understanding their connection, earning this finely wrought, sensitive movie a punishing NC-17 rating. Even at the premiere earlier this month at the Standard Hotel -- a place, I'm told, where peeping toms line up on the Highline to see occupants in "the act" -- director Derek Cianfrance and his stars Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams were sweating their appeal of this rating which was finally overturned the next day to an R. Everyone agreed, you can show violence and sleaze with no untoward consequences, but just try a little tenderness to grab those censors by the throat.

Perhaps Cianfrance will be recognized for his direction, although his team should also be awarded for Best Original Script. Gosling's ukulele version of "You Always Hurt the One You Love" and Williams' tap dance are precious hidden talents revealed. For many volatile scenes, improvisation by the actors was key to the sometime duet/ duel. When Dean senses Cindy is holding something back as they traverse the Manhattan Bridge, Gosling spontaneously climbs up the wire fence, ready to jump. All I told him was, do whatever it takes, said Cianfrance. All I told her was, don't tell no matter what. Thank goodness, she does.

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