The Place Beyond the Pines – 4/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

PlaceThe Place Beyond the Pines – 4/5 – There are many genres of films, and like most (Drama, horror, action) there are some that consider ‘Indie’ a genre too.   With so many films being released every year, many of these films are low-budget, simple independent films.  A lot of these films don’t get the fanfare or recognition that most big blockbusters or epic drama’s get.  This is either because of marketing and/or it just being an independent film.  This is a film that falls into this category.  The Place Beyond the Pines is a simple but riveting story about family, choices and the over consequences between these things.  With a realistic story, great acting combine with an up and down script, The Place Beyond the Pines is a movie worth seeing.

Premise: A motorcycle racer, Luke, (Ryan Gosling) drives out of a traveling carnival globe of death and desperately tries to reconnect with a former lover, Romina, (Eva Mendes).  His attempts to reconnect to her are because she recently and secretly gave birth to the stunt rider’s son. In an attempt to provide for his new family, Luke quits the carnival life and commits a series of bank robberies. The stakes rise as Luke is put on a collision course with an ambitious police officer, Avery Cross, (Bradley Cooper) looking to quickly move up the ranks in a police department riddled with corruption.  As the drama unfolds, truths are crossed, lives are changed, and consequences vibrate through everyone’s lives for years to come.

In general, the acting in this film is superb.  In the main roles of Luke and Avery, we have Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper.  The first half of the film focuses on Luke, and his struggles to support his new family and learning to be a father.  In this role, Ryan Gosling shines.  He provides a character that is mentally stricken by events in his life, but at the same time he compliments these feelings that are raw and pure.  His connection to the ‘father’ archetype is one that provides scars and passion.  He makes you feel that he wants to do the right thing, but in doing so, he goes down a path that he can’t turn back.  Very vivid, and very on point, you will feel for what happens to his character in the film.  Opposite him, in a father like role, Bradley Cooper also shines in his role.  As Avery, you see a man who is struggling between duty and family.  He provides a place for his family to grow, but his career hinders his connection and commitment to them.  This struggle is on par to Ryan Gosling’s inner demons, but in reverse.  The reason it is in reverse is because Cooper doesn’t make the bad choices for his family.  What happens with him, is that his choices, even though they seem right, has consequences that lead to dire needs, and shows that a ‘lack of fatherhood’ affects his son as much as Gosling’s son.  The other set of characters are the sons (15 years later).  You have Luke’s son Jason and Avery’s son AJ.  They are played by Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen.  As Jason, you see DeHaan provides a boy who is confused, but aligned with subtle truths of his past.  DeHaan (of Chronicle fame) gives us a typical teenager, who even with a structured environment, is still mentally hardened by not knowing his father, the past, which could unlock his own loneliness to the world.  His layer and depth affects everyone on screen, and you feel his passion in this role.  As AJ, Emory Cohen provides a typical teenager, lost in the crowd because there is a lacking of a ‘father’ role model in his life.  His character does well in complimenting Jason, but doesn’t do more than giving an opposite complexion of the ‘father/son’ dynamic.  The supporting characters do a good job in adding gravity to the story.  Some notable names in supporting roles are Eva Mendes and Ray Liotta.  Eva plays the mother of Jason, and Ray is a corrupt copy that works with Avery.

When it comes to the story and script, it is a very simple and ‘down the earth’ approach.  Like most indie flicks, it doesn’t go beyond script to make it overtly dramatic, leaving it to evolve with the acting and direction.  The story begins with Luke finding out he has a son.  The first arch of the story revolves around him trying to change his life to be a good ‘father figure’ to his son, as well as a supporting person to the family.  Along the way, you watch as his lack of ethics and choice makes him go down a bad route, as he chooses to get money through bank robberies.  In this, you feel the passion and commitment he has to change his life, but are cautious with how he goes about it.  A lot of the first arch is a setup for the rest of the film, which hinders the audience to fully become attached to the ‘father/son’ dynamic created.  After a good 10 minutes of a slow buildup, the film starts to draw you in with some dramatic interactions between Luke, the mother and cops in the film.  The tone of the film is mastered greatly, as it weaves a realism flow into the simple direction.  You’re gripped, moved and very much in a struggle to either root or root against Luke.  After Luke hits his final bank robbery, and comes into contact with Avery, the story shifts. The second arch of the film begins, as it focuses on Avery’s rise through the police department, and his ‘lack thereof’ involvement with his family.  This is where I believe a good chunk of the film slightly diverts off course.  The generic tale of ‘cop corruption’ is vivid, but something that was dearly not needed to develop Avery’s character.  This part of the film becomes a distraction from the overall tone, meaning and direction of the film because it takes away from creating a greater connection to main themes created from the beginning. Lost in this distraction, you see the struggle Avery has in being a father and husband vs. his duty as a cop.  This is where you see the overall consequences and connections form, as the first and second arch begins to mold together.  Once the distracting side story is put to rest, the film moves fifteen years forward, with the focus turning back to the overall theme, and focuses on the sons.  In this third and last arch, you witness the culmination of Luke’s commitment to his son, the lack of father role models, and the inevitable consequences of Avery’s career decision all string into the climax.  In this, lives are changed and truths come out that will make that audience feel a sense of awe.  This feeling is drummed up by how raw and vivid the film is, and how great a complexion on ‘real life’ the film shows.  The source of family, fatherhood, commitment and consequence stir wonderfully.  This kind of connection (good or bad) helps create depths for the audience, making this a worthy viewing experience.

The visuals are as delicate as the script and characters.  Set in the backdrop of a small town in New York, you witness true guile as you feel this town reflects your own town.  From the homes, the banks, the police department and schools, you realize this is a story about ‘real people’, even if it’s fiction.  Another great element is the score.  The music is so serene and gentle, that it helps capsulate the humility and sternness of the script.  The music is placed at precise ‘key’ moments, creating that grip that entices the visual stimulation of the scenes you’re witness to.  This is a great element, as it draws a complete experience to the film.

Overall, The Place Beyond the Pines is a gripping tale, which is simple, true and very real to the audience.  With some great acting, combined with authentic scenes and a vivid score, you find a connection to the stories unfolding.  Even though there are slow and staggering moments, you still notice this is a great film.  I’d recommend this for viewing from a fans of Gosling’s or Cooper, or general film fans and indie aficionados.

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