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The Place Beyond the Pines

What She said:

She

The Place Beyond the Pines oozes drama out of every crevice, almost to a fault.  It’s a very serious multigenerational story of intersecting characters.  The movie starts by following Luke (Ryan Gosling) a carnival worker who drifts into Schenectady, New York, and finds out that he has a baby son with Romina (Eva Mendes) a woman that he hooked up with the previous year.  Luke is shaken by this revelation and decides to step up and be a father for the baby.  That means providing baby Jason with nice things, which Luke doesn’t have money for.  And so, not unexpectedly, he turns to a life of crime to pay for baby stuff.  This includes robbing banks.  So, I’m going to purposefully be vague here, because I don’t want to give too much away, but Luke and a police officer, Avery (Bradley Cooper), have their lives cross paths and things are forever changed.  The movie then fast-forwards to the future, where we’re reacquainted with Jason, son of Luke, and AJ, son of Avery, both now 17 years old.

The Place Beyond the Pines

There’s so much more to this film, but I don’t want to expose too much, and it’s pretty complex to explain.  All you need to know is that you’ll have to be patient and let things unfold.  This movie is a character study and has a meandering story that explores the intersections of these people’s lives.  It’s truly quite interesting to watch, and the film touches on many dark themes: family, the definition of fatherhood, crime and corruption, and death.  My only complaint is that the film is juggling so many serious themes that it doesn’t delve into any one of them as deeply as I would have liked.  I would have preferred it to pick one or two of these topics and really go to town. 

The acting in the film is pretty solid, although everyone seems to be overacting a little because there’s so much drama to deal with.  Ryan Gosling, as has sort of become his thing, does a lot of acting with his eyes, and not so much acting with his dialogue.  He just sort of stares, sulks, and cries in a very intense way.  Bradley Cooper wipes his face a lot, as if he’s trying to scrub the stress of the day off.  Eva Mendes is actually pretty good as the exhausted mother who is just trying to do what’s best for her son.  She ends up caught in the middle of so much, and I truly feel for her. 

Overall, The Place Beyond the Pines is a decent drama, although it seems to take itself a little too seriously at times.  I enjoyed hanging with the film and watching the story unfold with its many layers.  I wouldn’t say there’s anything particularly uplifting or empowering about the film, so if you’re one of those people who likes to feel good after movies, you may want to take a pass.  But I think there’s a place for downer flicks in our society, and so I cannot help but recommend this.

Thumbs mostly up.

What He said:

He

I was excited for this one. I really enjoyed Ryan Gosling’s performance in Drive (review here), like a good crime drama, and was looking forward to watching him tackle the genre again.

The Place Beyond the Pines is an ensemble piece. There really isn’t one main character. This isn’t anything new, but the way the movie unfolded seemed fairly unique to me. I can’t say too much without giving the plot away, but I’ll say that it focuses on several different people and it takes places over several years.

The Place Beyond the Pines

Luke (Ryan Gosling) is a motorcycle stuntman who works for a traveling carnival. He’s one of those guys who rides a motorcycle inside a cage. He’s got insane skills which have given him a small degree of fame at these shows.  Like anyone with some level of fame, he has attracted some followers. One of them is a woman named Romina (Eva Mendes). The two had a fling when Luke was in town last year. Romina shows up at the show to say hi to him, but something else is on her mind. She hadn’t intended on telling him, but Luke discovers he is the father of her child.

Luke immediately wants to rekindle his relationship with Romina, so he quits his job and decides to stick around town. Seems pretty noble, right? The only problem is, Luke isn’t exactly the marrying type. He’s kind of nuts. For starters, he decides that a good way to stockpile some money to help with his kid is to start robbing banks. He’s also extremely obsessive. It’s been a while since Luke was last in town, so Romina moved on and is now with a guy named Kofi (Mahershala Ali). Kofi seems like a pretty good guy. He met this gal with a kid and decides to take her, her child, and her mother into his home. Luke does not care that she is with someone else. The baby – Jason – is his son, so he thinks that entitles him to a spot in both his and Romina’s lives. Things get awkward.

Avery (Bradley Cooper) is a police officer with a family of his own too. He seems to be the opposite of Luke. He’s happily married and also has a child of his own. He also happens to be the guy who busts Luke for his crimes.

Fast-forward several years later and the teenage sons of both men take center stage. Jason (Dane DeHaan) is Luke’s son and is being raised by Kofi and his mother, with no real knowledge of his father. He knows Kofi is his step-father, but his father is not in his life, and Jason knows almost nothing about him. AJ (Emory Cohen) is Avery’s son and despite coming from a much better home, the kid is a total screw up. This kid is white trash from top-to-bottom.  They don’t know who the other’s father is, but as you can imagine, they eventually find out.

This is a gritty crime drama with a story that unfolds in a rather epic way. It takes place over the course of 15 years.

The Place Beyond the Pines

For the most part, it is a well-acted movie with a very real feel to it. I thought Bradley Cooper was solid. I thought Eva Mendes was excellent. This might be her best role. I really felt for her character. She is in a tough spot and Mendes really makes you sympathize with her. Ryan Gosling is good at playing these brooding and damaged individuals, but the guy has to work on his range. In every movie I have seen him in, he acts with his eyes a little too much. He stays silent and stares off into space a little too frequently. He’s good, but needs to branch out a little. There’s more than one way to play a crazy person. I was a little torn on the two young actors playing their sons. Emory Cohen was playing a kid who was total garbage. He was a complete and total moron who only cared about getting high and partying. He definitely did a good job at making me dislike the character, but there were a few times where I felt like his performance was a little cringe-worthy. He was good, but there were a few instances where he didn’t look like he knew what he was doing.

I also thought the things revolving around their friendship and how their fathers past unfolded a little too conveniently. The two meet, become friends, and then mortal enemies a little too quickly and easily. I wasn’t totally buying that to be honest. Same goes for the way Jason finds out about his father’s criminal past. It all happened a little too easy, especially for a fairly long movie. It’s not like it was 90 minutes and they were crunched for time.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the movie, but I felt several parts of the story needed to be tightened up. The movie focuses on the younger characters the more the movie goes on and I think their storylines were the weakest.

Almost nobody looked like they aged 15 years either. The older characters looked too much like they did when they kids were just toddlers.

Rating: Thumbs half up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on August 10, 2013.

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