Thursday, May 5, 2011
Until Lack of Clarity Us Do Part
Cindy (Williams) and Dean (Ryan Gosling) are middle-class Americans whose divorce is signalled from the opening shot with a horror-film feel when their daughter, Frankie, announces that her brother or sister is missing.
Turns out it’s her dog, but that doomed, creepy feeling persists. It is Frankie, after all, who is going to be the real victim if these two people can’t sort out their differences.
Dean happens to be one of those talented people who does nothing with it. Instead of becoming, say, a lawyer, he’s got a job moving furniture because it allows him to drink beer in the morning and be what he never thought he wanted to be: a husband and father.
And he’s a very good father at that, even if he smokes while he’s holding Frankie in his arms. The girl, of course, is nuts about her daddy.
Cindy, however, is studying to be a doctor and, it transpires, has been having sex since she was thirteen with “about” 20 lovers by the time she falls pregnant. That’s quite a lot of experience and then she’s not all that sure it’s Dean’s.
Why has she had so many sex partners at so young an age? Is it normal? Perhaps. On the other hand, it could be because she has a real dog of a father who talks to her mother like she’s trash and she could, therefore, have self-image problems.
She does have an affair with a fellow medical student, however, who looks a lot like Dean, but not only is he vicious (like her father), he’s not half as clever. Nor is she, letting him make love (to put it kindly) to her without a condom.
Dean can twist anything she says whichever way he likes, lawyer-like, but apart from that he’s a loving, caring guy.
Cleverly cutting back and forth between their affecting affair at the start and the beginning of the end of their marriage, the film builds towards the day they got married with her heavily pregnant, but tearily happy, and the last day of their marriage in the present.
Williams has that uncanny quality of looking common or glamorous, young or old when required, while Gosling should have got his nomination for a realism (he rightly got a Golden Globe nom) that is quite startling.
But if the film impresses with its assured execution, then it failed to convince me to feel any sympathy for Cindy - one could easily read the film as saying she’s an ambitious slut who gets to keep the child in the end, which I don’t think was the idea.
Most marriages break up because of ideological differences – how to handle opposing values about sex, money, religion, politics, living - and the film never quite put its finger on why Cindy is so repulsed, finally, by her husband. This could be because the person she’s really repulsed by is herself, but then that’s a completely different movie.
* Next week, Tracker with Ray Winstone and Temuera Morrison.