Who's In It:Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams
The Basics: With a narrative that jumps around like a game of Pong, Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams are young Brooklynites in love. Then the next scene they're not. And he's balder. And they have a kid. And then they don't. And then she's pregnant. But then she's not. And she's in college and with some other guy and she wants to be a doctor. Then they're brawling. Then they're meeting her parents. And then they're having a seething conversation in a car. And then they're on a horrible last-ditch-effort "date night" at a Love Motel in the Futuristic Room where everything is made of metal and they get drunk and have rotten sex. And weirdly enough, even though this is a movie where the frayed ends of a dissolving marriage are on display from the moment the opening credits roll and there are, by definition, no surprises, the bitter end still catches you by surprise with its crushing sadness.
What's The Deal: If you've seen John Cassavetes excavating the unhappy details of his screen couples or Ingmar Bergman's Scenes From a Marriage or the under-praised 1982 Albert Finney/Diane Keaton-starring Shoot the Moon, then you don't need to watch this movie. But then again if you've seen those movies then you're already a misery addict and so you probably will. It's definitely worth your time. The performances are great and the naturalistic quality of the filmmaking saves it from screechiness. So what if you've kinda-sorta witnessed all this before? Think of it as a great remix with modern faces.
Unintended Practical Use: Couples counseling workshops. Because it's not exactly entertaining in the way you expect when you've just wandered up to the box office with no intention to see anything in particular. There's nothing fun about it, but if you want a "How Not To" guide for conducting your next (or current) relationship, it should move to the top of your must-see list.
Why The MPAA Should Be Abolished: This movie features explicit sex between Williams and Gosling. Some of it is happy. Some of it isn't. None of it is pornographic. But the MPAA gave the film an NC-17. Basically the kiss of box-office death. It means some theaters won't show it. Some newspapers won't run ads for it. And then Harvey Weinstein stepped in and persuaded them to switch it to an "R." Translation: Heads rolled; it's Harvey Weinstein. And good for him. Finally someone with some muscle got their way with these people and their arbitrary rulings.
Other Deeply Unhappy Michelle Williams Movie You Need To See Right Now: Wendy and Lucy, about a woman and her dog and their shared poverty. Devastating. Like Lassie on food stamps. So yeah, hats off to Michelle Williams for not wanting to be in crap like When in Romeor Ghosts of Girlfriends Pastor any of those other rom-com horror movies they always stick young actresses in. More anguish!