The Place Beyond The Pines (2013)
March 21, 2013 1 Comment
After learning that a former lover had given birth to his son in secret, Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling) quits his job as a stunt racer for a travelling circus and begins robbing banks to better support his new family — whether they want his help or not. When Glanton’s raids put him on a collision course with idealistic beat cop Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper), a chain of events are set in motion that will impact not only their own lives, but those of their children, Jason (Dane Dehaan) and A.J. (Emory Cohen), too.
The latest film from celebrated Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance, The Place Beyond The Pines reunites him with that previous film’s star, man-of-the-moment Ryan Gosling. A sprawling epic that chronicles the better part of sixteen years in Schenectady, NY, the film is a story of fathers and sons; ostensibly a meditation on the demands of masculinity in modern-day America. The film had its UK premiere at Glasgow Film Festival, having rode a wave of acclaim all the way from the United States. However…
As we follow a silent, enigmatic, leather jacket-clad Ryan Gosling around an under-lit carnival it is unlikely that you will be able to escape the first throes of deja vu. And it’s not just Drive that this early section of The Place Beyond The Pines will remind you of, but every other film the actor has starred in in recent memory as well. He’s playing that character again, you see; the loveable asshole who is in fact just an asshole. And for the next forty-five minutes that is all the film seems willing to deliver, in what could largely have been relegated to backstory.
Fortunately, Gosling’s (motorcycle) driver is only one third of the story, and as soon as the narrative expands to incorporate Bradley Cooper’s loyal police officer the film finally starts to take shape. Luke Glanton is everything Gosling’s Avery Cross was not (likeable, compelling, complex) and as his own character arc — a tale of justice and loyalty — segues into that of Glanton and Avery’s children, it is genuinely fascinating to see how his earlier resolve has fared sixteen years down the line. This is where the film comes into its own, Derek Cianfrance’s patience and restraint paying off as rising stars Emory Cohen and Dane DeHaan bring the story to a confident and emotionally charged conclusion.
Although at its heart The Place Beyond The Pines is a story of fathers and sons, that’s really no excuse for all-but ignoring the female members of the cast. Both Eva Mendes and Rose Byrne try their hardest to make an impression as the movie’s two primary matriarch’s, but neither are given enough to work with, their roles requiring them to do little but nag and annoy. More unforgivable, given the film’s M.O., however, is Cianfrance’s over-simplified and single-minded view of masculinity. Over its one hundred and forty minute running time, The Place Beyond The Pines paints villain after villain, creating an atmosphere that is so downbeat and hopeless that none of it seems at all worthwhile.
While undoubtedly ambitious, The Place Beyond The Pines is almost as demanding to watch as it undoubtedly was to make. While it might be joyless, over-long and inconsistent across its three segments, however, there is enough to admire in the stunning cinematography, assured direction and incredible performances (Cooper, Cohen and DeHaan really are superb) to keep audiences from giving up completely.