Jennie’s Movie Review: The Place Beyond the Pines

Letter Grade:

The Good:

Well written & acted
Beautifully styled & scored
Realistic portrayals of rough life situations and circumstances

The Bad:

Shaky camera
Misleading trailers

Cast & Crew:

Directed By: Derek Cianfrance
Written By: Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio, Darius Marder
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes

Rated R for language throughout, some violence, teen drug and alcohol use, and a sexual reference

The Place Beyond the Pines is a 3 act movie about a group of people living in Schenectady, NY who are interconnected through a series of events.  It starts out by introducing motorcycle stuntman Luke Glanton, played by Ryan Gosling.  You quickly find out that he has an infant son with an old fling named Romina (Eva Mendes) that he did not know existed.  In his own way, he wants to be responsible and do the right thing.  She is with someone else but she doesn’t completely shut him out.  He quits his job as a stuntman and starts working at a car shop.  Predictably, this doesn’t bring in the money needed and since he’s pretty handy on a bike, he begins to use his skill set to get income in a far less legal way, robbing banks.  He is successful at first, but of course everything begins to unravel and eventually he crosses paths with rookie idealistic cop Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper).  The 2 men’s lives are forever changed and forever intertwined.

Let’s be clear, this is an Independent Movie.  It is gritty, dark, shaky, and more “real” feeling than your run of the mill mainstream feature.  This is not a movie designed to play on the fact that Gosling and Cooper are very popular right now, other than maybe to get people through the door in the first place.  There are no glossy smiles, there is no perfect lighting, and there are no heart throb moments.  You don’t even really like either of them (or anyone else for that matter) throughout the movie. That’s OK though.  For me, this is a more realistic film.  People are flawed and there isn’t a hero or perfect ending.  The Director’s (Derek Cianfrance) previous scripted film Blue Valentine, also featuring Gosling, is very similar in style and tone.

I really am drawn to the way this movie looks.  The tattoos on Gosling are appropriately terrible and must have been a huge chore to do (and make look convincing) for every shot he was in.  The characters were styled perfectly for their life situations, which were not glamorous to say the least.  It reminded me a bit of Winter’s Bone, another wonderfully gritty movie.  The score is beautiful and really accompanies everything perfectly.

While I understand that in most cases shaky cam is used to convey a sense of franticness, realism, and desperation, I’m not a huge fan.  Even in movies I have enjoyed overall (The Hurt Locker, Saving Private Ryan), I feel like it can go a bit over board sometimes.  It seems as though not only is the cinematographer using a hand held camera, but they are also doing calisthenics while shooting.  There were a few instances in this movie that I would classify as going overboard.  One scene in particular where Gosling is riding his motorcycle through the woods I had to look away from the screen for a moment.

The acting was really well done by all of the actors involved but, despite what the trailers may suggest, I was not blown away by either Gosling or Cooper’s performances.  Don’t get me wrong, they were great, but to suggest that this role was better than Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook or Gosling in Lars and the Real Girl is ridiculous.  The supporting actors were superb.  I hesitate to even call them supporting honestly as the screen time for everyone in the movie is probably comparable.  The two young men (Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen) who play the teenage sons of the main characters stand out the most. Cohen’s character AJ is a bit over the top and you don’t like him, but I’m pretty sure that’s on purpose and not the way it was acted.  DeHaan’s performance of Jason is stunning and I am hopeful that it is a sign of things to come from this actor.  It was also great to see Eva Mendes who I believe is underrated as a serious actress.

In the end this is a powerful movie about responsibility, legacy, fate, consequences, and mostly the relationship between fathers and sons.  It’s a long movie and I would dare to say an acquired taste. You don’t leave the theater feeling overly positive.  It is a film completely devoid of escapism, which it seems the majority of movie goers are looking for based on box office results (I’m looking at you entire Fast and Furious franchise).  I enjoyed this movie so my rating is B+ for me personally and would definitely recommend it to people who enjoy this type of film.   But if you are looking for the Ryan Gosling from The Notebook or the Bradley Cooper from The Hangover, you may want to sit this one out.

Jennie Stoddart (24 Posts)

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