Blue Valentine

Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams | R |

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DRAMA

Forget the NC-17 rating originally slapped on this movie, because the sex is hardly the rawest thing about it. Blue Valentine is the exposed, throbbing wound of a failing marriage, featuring characters that don't so much develop as devolve. It's depressing, painful and made all the more visceral by the stunningly naturalistic Gosling and Williams. All of which is to say that it's a beautifully acted film that may nevertheless ruin your day.

Cindy (Williams) and Dean (Gosling) check into a silly theme motel to try to rekindle whatever love they once had. A night of flashbacks and heavy drinking reveals the genesis of their affection-and of their eventual breakup. He was always fractious and she was always easily bored, but darn, love makes you blind. The tight focus on them, them, them can make Blue Valentine feel more like an acting exercise than a complete film, but what a master class in performance it is.

One of The Fighter's scene-stealers has a real star sibling. Conan O'Brien's sister Kate, 46, a special-ed teacher from Brookline, Mass., nailed the role. "I can bring the Irish Catholic thing," she says. "And I come from a big family!"

Did you have a say in your sleek Tron look?

I was researching Joan of Arc and wanted an androgynous warrior look, not long hair and huge boobs.

What did you learn from Jeff Bridges?

I asked how he maintains his life. He's been married for 33 years; that's rare in Hollywood.

You're married to an Italian prince. Sick of "princess" headlines?

I don't think it's the most interesting thing about me, but there's so many of us [actresses] that they have to find some way to tell us apart!

ANOTHER YEAR

Director Mike Leigh's latest domestic drama is thin soup at first, but the characters (like Lesley Manville's achingly sad Mary) linger long past the closing credits.

KEVIN SPACEY IN CASINO JACK

Miss old-school Swimming with Sharks Spacey? Dude's back, playing shady lobbyist Jack Abramoff (with Kelly Preston, right, as his wife, Pam).

There's not much to celebrate about these unfunny comedies.

HOW DO YOU KNOW

How you make Reese Witherspoon and Paul Rudd seem scattered and unfunny, I don't know.

LITTLE FOCKERS

Seeing the old characters? Fun. Seeing them do the same old things all over again? Tedious. The actors seem as bored as we are.

Joe Mantegna's daughter, 20, lands the ultimate Hollywood-kid gig: escorting the stars at the Golden Globe Awards on Jan. 16.

SHE'S ALREADY A STAR

She made her debut alongside Dad in 2003's Uncle Nino. Now she stars on TeenNick's Gigantic with Meryl Streep's daughter Grace Gummer.

HER DAD'S SOFT SPOT

Yes, the Criminal Minds star is tough. "But if gospel music comes on, my dad and I are bawling on the couch," Gia says. "It's our weakness."

IF JOHNNY DEPP SAYS HI ...

"We'll hang out. We'll chill. Whatever. I've never really been that person to see a celebrity and kind of get choked up and crazy. I know we're all human."