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Published on April 5th, 2013 | by Joseph Saulnier


The Place Beyond The Pines

By Joseph K. Saulnier

I really wanted to sit at my computer tonight and write about how much I disliked this movie. I was practically begging people to go with me, but no one wanted to. So I ended up going on my own. The only thing I really knew about this film going into it was that it was from Derek Cianfrance, the writer/director of “Blue Valentine”. I didn’t care much for BV, and so my hopes were not high for “The Place Beyond the Pines”, but actually, Pines surprised me.

Pines is the story of two men on opposite sides of the law, just trying to do the right thing and how what they do impacts each other’s lives, and the lives of their sons. Of course the means by which they got to the “right thing” was not always the “right way”, but ultimately they were trying to good.

Ryan Gosling plays “Heart Throb” Luke Glanton, a stunt motorcycle rider with a traveling circus. We open on him doing his thing in Schenectady, New York, and after his performance he sees Romina (“Roe”, portrayed by Eva Mendes). You can tell these two have history, as though they met the last time his little side show burned through town. Cutting through the awkwardness, Luke finds out that Roe had a kid. His kid, Jason. Though, he didn’t find out from her. Determined to make things right, despite Roe having moved on being with another man, Luke sticks around Schenectady to try and be part of his son’s life and to win Roe from her man. Only things don’t begin moving fast enough for him, and so turns to robbing banks in this small town as a way to provide for his lover and their newborn child. Only things go south fairly quickly and this puts him on a collision course with an ambitious rookie cop.

Bradley Cooper plays Avery Cross; a rookie cop on the force all of six months. After a harrowing deed that puts takes him off duty for several months and causes him so serious psychological issues which make it hard for him to even look at his son, Avery Jr. After his recovery, Avery returns to the force only to be thrust into a den of corrupt cops, gangs and a genuine fear for his life. He is not sure how to react at first, but eventually knows that he must do the right thing… even if it means ratting out his brothers in arms. This doesn’t prove to be an easy course for him, but he is determined to do the right thing, despite it tearing his family apart.

Act one of this film focuses on Gosling and Mendes’ characters and their tumultuous relationship. When they first brought Mendes on screen, I was really questioning the casting choice. By the end of the act, those questions were still there. It just didn’t seem like Gosling and Mendes had the chemistry that the makers of the film were desperately trying to portray. But we do see a lot into the character of Luke and how much he really just wants to be there for his son. Gosling did an excellent job with the role, but I feel like there was thing that was distracting from his performance: his hair. For some reason they decided bleach blond was the way to go to this character, but mostly what I was thinking when he was on screen was that it just looked out of place and I really had to concentrate to get past it.

Act two focuses on Bradley Cooper and the turmoil he goes through. I can’t say too much without giving away some major plot points of the film, but Bradley Cooper definitely did an excellent job playing the young rookie cop. He has an excellent supporting cast for his act with Harris Yulin playing his father, Rose Byrne as his wife and Bruce Greenwood as the District Attorney. He eventually manages to get from underneath all the lies, coercion and corruption to make a bid for an Assistant District Attorney position.

Fast forward to 15 years later, and this is where our act three takes place. Only now we are focusing on the lives of young Jason and Avery Jr. The deeds of their fathers in yester year, portrayed in our first two acts, affect our young subjects as they become friends without realizing the history between their families. I felt that Dane DeHaan who portrayed a 17-year old Jason knocked it out of the park with his performance. But there is something left to be said for Emory Cohen who is on screen as Avery Jr.

Want to know the rest? Watch the movie. Acts one and two, though long winded at points, blew me out of the water. Cianfrance did an excellent job of captivating the audience and making you care for the two focus points, despite them being on completely different sides of the law (as mentioned earlier). Act three, however, fell kind of flat to me. It very well could be a result of a poor casting choice in Emory Cohen, but I also felt like they could have shaped the end of this tail into so much more.

Overall, I actually enjoyed the movie, despite a lackluster ambition to go see it. Would I have gone to see it on my own if I had to pay for it? Nah! But it is a good date movie and might possibly start some interesting conversations between you and your partner.

4 stars out of 5

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