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« Happy Easter,Dakota!| Main| March.It's a Wrap »
Sunday
Mar 31 2013

Review: "The Place Beyond the Pines"

This review was originally published in my weekly column at Towleroad

Handsome Luke at the Fairgrounds

The opening shot fromTHE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES,is a stunner.And not only because it starts with a view of a well-muscled and inked masculine torso.The camera follows the man (we don't see his face) as he paces back and forth,plays with a knife and then walks through a fairground where he turns heads and prompts amateur snapshots.Finally the camera catches his face.It's "Handsome Luke"(Ryan Gosling),a daredevil motorcylist about to defy death and gravity in a round metal cage.As soon as we've seen 'Handsome Gosling,' though,Luke throws a motorcyle helmet on depriving us of his Movie Star mug and enters the cage to perform miraculous stunts.As I recall there aren't any edits in this shot and I have no idea how it was filmed unless Ryan Gosling moonlights as a stuntman in addition to his many many other talents (likenaming his body parts,and inspiringhilarious fandomandpopular internet memes).

This lengthy continuous shot with its 'now you see him,now you don't' movie-star tease is a pretty apt description of the movie to come which is something of a bait-and-switch with a prominent throughline.[more]

Cooper is a Cop With a ConscienceSee,it's not a Ryan Gosling movie so much as an ambitious triptych which passes the baton fluidly each time it's becoming a new movie.

I'm positive that most reviews will spoil surprises so I'm only offering up a few words on its three parts

Movie #1 Handsome Luke
This excellent crime drama is stylish and engrossing that it didn't even occur to me until after the movie ended that this is the second time in less than three years that Ryan Gosling has played anamoral stuntman / driver / criminalwho pursues a woman with a child who is already quite taken.It's a testament to the director Derek Cianfrance (who previously delivered Gosling's best work inBlue Valentine) that this new film feels so different despite sharing a genre and so many similiarities.

Movie #2 Officer Cross
I didn't even recognize Bradley Cooper at first.He enters movie #1 as a cop in a very frenzied chase sequence.Soon Cooper has wrestled the narrative away from Gosling and we're in a quieter less adrenaline-fueled film.Which is not to say that it's lacking in intensity.This one's a character study and crisis-of-conscience drama.Though it's fairly involving,Bradley Cooper just isn't quitethe mesmerizing movie star that Ryan Gosling is.

And then...

Movie #3 AJ & Jason
Downgrade!The third movie,several years later,follows the sons of both Cross and Luke as they meet in high school and become friends...of sorts.Their meeting will unearth lots of emotional baggage from Movies #1 & #2 and Movie #3 will attempt (clumsily) to wrap things up.For a film that spends a lot of arguing for moral clarity in Act Two it weirdly though arguably glamourizes its earliest crimes retroactively with its coda.

Emory Cohen (the #2 favorite whipping boy of "Smash"hate-watchers) is shamelessly acting in all caps though one might argue that his smarmy way-too-sure of himself Actorly Bravado is a good match for the character who even has "Arrogance"tattoo'ed on his arm.But neither her nor the ubiquitous rising actor Dane DeHaan as Jason is yet up to Gosling or even Cooper's camera-seizing level...which is a problem for the third act of a long crime epic which aims to pull its thematic threads together through the DNA of its fathers and sons.


Grade(s): Movie #1...B+; Movie #2...B;Movie #3...C
Oscar Chances: No.Although it's the kind of epic crime drama that if the reviews were stellar or Derek Cianfrance were more established as an auteur (he'll need to be a few more films in) might win Screenplay traction.

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Reader Comments (9)

Hmmm
I'm disappointed you didn't like it as much as I did but I can understand all your criticisms.I,too,thought the third act wasn't as strong as the first two,though I love the first two so much that I'm willing to forgive its faults to an extent.You're totally right about Cohen though,definitely the weak link of the entire film.On the other hand,I really like the way Liotta plays with the persona we all expect of him.
Anyway,what did you think of the technical aspects of it?I've been telling everyone that Bobbit's cinematography and the staging of the chases reminds me of Frankenheimer's Grand Prix (1966) which is as good a film to think about when you're thinking chases as any.I really loved the cinematography and the sound design.

March 31,2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmir

The chases were definitely strong.I loved the first hour but I just thought it got progressively worse as it went along which is a huge problem with lengthy ambitious movies.

March 31,2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I LOVED it.Felt grandiose and yet intimate.I thought the middle section was the best - finding tension in dialogue and conversations is one of the hardest tricks to pull off.

March 31,2013 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

Ugggghh!!!You're only making me want to see this more!!!

March 31,2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoey

I have a special regional premiere ticket with a Q&A from the director and screenwriter (thanks,Focus Features).I am very cautious about this movie,not just because it was shot here and I had friends involved but basically the word out of TIFF was exactly how Nathaniel described it: 3 movies in one and parts that were the best probably should have just stood alone.

And speaking of the chases and robbery scenes- the filmmakers really went all out in have the local police departments assist them with trying to match the realism of how those things go.They even interviewed a local criminal who specialized in bank robberies.

I really like Dane DeHaan a lot so when I realized who he was matched up against in the movie I grimaced and audibly let out an,"Unfair!"And reading what Cohen is supposed to be playing I could only shake my head (though given that one of the screenwriters did go to the local HS represented in the film,and a rival HS of mine,I love that that kind of a-hole type will represent that HS in posterity because I am a hater).

Was Cianfrance and the writers trying to go for Sirk/Fassbinder melodrama with the continuing generations as I have read some reviewers?If so,why am I also reading that Rose Byrne and Eva Mendez were really given nothing to do with their characters?How could that happen with the team from Blue Valentine?

March 31,2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

No Oscar chances for Ryan Gosling in the Supporting Actor category,Nathaniel?Reviews were great,I really had hopes for him...:\

April 1,2013 | Unregistered CommenterEd

The reviews seem to have turned since it debuted at the festivals...I've seen the word "melodrama"used a lot.

April 1,2013 | Unregistered CommenterBia

I didn't like it very much.I do believe Gosling and Cianfrance's chemistry is evident on screen,and I liked the first part a lot.Gosling has that charisma that unfortunately nobody else in the movie brings.The part with Cooper in the woods?I thought it was a surprising display of terrible acting...Was extremely sad to not have liked this -- especially after lovingBlue Valentineso much.

April 2,2013 | Unregistered Commenterjessica maria

You didn't mention Ben Mendelsohn!!Already my dream pick for Supporting Actor even though he'll never get any traction at all.He livened up Movie A so much,and then his scene in Movie C was so,so sweet it brought tears to my eyes.

April 12,2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

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