I’d been looking forward to The Place Beyond the Pines ever since I originally heard about it. Had numerous reasons to be excited. This is Derek Cianfrance’s follow up to Blue Valentine – the anti-romance/drama that brought Cianfrance and Ryan Gosling together; come to love the pairing. That isn’t a movie you’ll want to watch often. It tells a great story and is marvelously made. Still remember it vividly, but after seeing it twice, I don’t have an urge to revisit. A phenomenal cast is assembled, it is not a one or two man show. What really drew me in another level was the plot. “Epic” might not be the ideal word, but The Place Beyond the Pines tells a sprawling story that serves as much weight as any other dram I can think of. While some things could have been altered to make this even better, it’s still one of the best movies of 2013 so far.
There are three parts to the story. Watching everything unfold is important, but it doesn’t take away too much if you know a lot going in. I’ll do my best, might trend in slight spoiler territory, though. Luke (Ryan Gosling) is a motorcycle stuntman that travels with a carnival to many different towns. His latest stop is Schenectady, New York. While there, he meets up with a former lover, Romina (Eva Mendes). Luker finds out she gave birth to his son. Because of this, Lukes decides to quite the carnival and provide for his son. The only way he can do that, however, is by robbing banks. The focus switches over to a Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper), a police officer. He’s a good guy hailed a hero, only to go up against the corruption of the police department. Evantlly, things leap forward in time and settles on the lives of two high school kids who are faced with their fathers legacy’s catching up with them.
A story like this doesn’t appear often. Like I said, there are three stories. The first story sets the stage for what’s to come, the second continues that from a different perspective, and the final is a reflection on how the events of the past carry over to the next generation. Each one builds off one another adding layers of depth and understanding. It did feel long at times – it’s over two hours. I couldn’t think of anything to cut when sitting down thinking, though. Without seeing what was presented, the climax wouldn’t have nearly as much weight. I love all the questions and the messages brought up. Father and son relationships (it explores the notion of a father providing for their sons and what it means to inherit qualities of their fathers lives gradually) along with the American dream are just a couple.
Sean Bobbitt did an outstanding job on the cinematography. You couldn’t count how many gorgeous shots showed up. Bobbitt hasn’t worked on too many projects. He did do the cinematography for Shame. I havn’t seen anything else he’s done, but from my sample size, Bobbitt should be doing more. The visuals enhance the film. A good “look” can’t make a bad movie good, but it can add a lot. Another aspect dealing with atmosphere that worked was the soundtrack. When you are supposed to feel or appreciate a scene both those elements shine.
The acting was fantastic all-around. I became interested in Ryan Gosling after seeing 2010’s Blue Valentine. After 2011, however, he was one of my favorite actors. A stand-out from that year was Drive. The Ides of March and Crazy, Stupid, Love showcased great performances as well. Gosling plays a highly quiet and emotional character and adds so much subtle depth to make Luke interesting. Does a fine job crossing a fine line at being reserved, while still ramping up emotions when needed. Bradley Cooper has blossomed into an excellent actor. Cooper is versatile, he can handle both comedy and drama. After Silver Linings Playbook I wasn’t sure he’d give or be in a movie of that caliber. I was wrong there. He’s very compelling here. The character goes through a lot, and Cooper sells each and every one of them.
Even though the leads dominate, the supporting cast did just as good with the screen time they got. Ray Liotta, Rose Byrne, Ben Mendelsohn, and Eva Mendes give key performances. None have really “big” moments, but do well regardless. Emory Cohen was the only cast member that I wasn’t wild about. Since everybody else is so great, it sticks out more. It wasn’t all Choen’s fault. He plays a real nuisance of a character and used an accent I didn’t buy. Dane DeHaan has been popping up recently here and there. Chronicle and Lawless are some of his most recent. I’m interested in seeing him in the role of Harry Osbron in the next Spider-man movie; wasn’t too sure about the choice for reasons not involving his acting talent. DeHaan carries the latter part of the film. He makes you buy all the things Jason goes through and feels.
The screenplay had its rough spots, but overall it did wonders in many areas. Characters are the most crucial element here, the film immerses itself in them. Luke is a person who has faced some serious turmoil in his life. He knows violence, but isn’t a guy who enjoys or wants to do things of that nature. Being a motorcycle driver is fitting for Luke since he has likely driven away from problems in his life. The character was fairly complicated and was intriguing to watch. Avery Cross wasn’t as deep; doesn’t take anything away, still. Cross is ambitions and clearly wants to do good, so we want him to get out of his struggles. Jason could have been messed up. An adolescent trying to discover who he is, where he comes from, and questions similar can end up being annoying. It’s handled right here.
The Place Beyond the Pines is focused and deliberately paced. It can be heavy to take in, but is one heck of a complex drama. I can’t wait to see what Derek Cianfrance does next.