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The Place Beyond the Pines

2013 | 140 min | R | 2.39:1

The Place Beyond the Pines


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1 user review

Movie appeal




Theatrical release date

 29 March, 2013
 12 April, 2013

Country of origin

 United States

Box office




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Screenshots from The Place Beyond the Pines Blu-ray

The Place Beyond the Pines Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, March 28, 2013

I think any useful discussion of “The Place Beyond the Pines” requires some heavy lifting in the spoiler department. Please do not read any further if you care to keep the film’s secrets safe and sound.

In his last movie, 2010’s “Blue Valentine,” writer/director Derek Cianfrance studied an intimate world of relationship deterioration, focusing on the hearts and minds of two characters retracing their mistakes. With “The Place Beyond the Pines,” the helmer opens his scope up to move across generations, yet the core of the picture remains quietly meditative, continuing his quest to explore human fallibility and the yearn to right wrongs. It’s an impressively imagined effort with a sweeping arc of drama to help carry it through three stories of emotional disruption, and its ambition is almost worth a recommendation alone. It eventually falls apart, perhaps by design, but Cianfrance shows interesting new sides to his filmmaking ability with his latest feature, while continuing to indulge a thespian permissiveness that’s embarrassing to watch at times.

A motorcycle stunt rider with a traveling carnival, Luke (Ryan Gosling) has returned to Schenectady, NY, a place where he once enjoyed a tryst with Romina (Eva Mendes), a local waitress. When Romina visits the show to catch a glimpse of her old lover, Luke responds enthusiastically, only to learn about the existence of his infant son, Jason. Struggling to make ends meet while trying to remain in Romina’s life as she’s moved on to boyfriend Kofi (Mahershala Ali), Luke is talked into a bank robbing idea by pal Robin (Ben Mendelsohn), soon growing addicted to the fast money. When his dreams of family peace and financial stability are dashed due to anger issues and legal tangles, Luke’s life is forever altered when he encounters Avery (Bradley Cooper), a highly educated police officer who makes a rookie mistake, leaving him with a bullet in his leg. Watching his vocational future dry up despite his hero status, Avery is left to contend with a brotherhood of crooked cops, led by Deluca (Ray Liotta), while psychologically unable to engage with wife Jennifer (Rose Byrne) and infant son A.J. Years later, Avery is running for attorney general, abandoning his relationship with A.J. (Emory Cohen), who’s grown into a drug addict and provocateur, befriending Jason (Dane DeHaan) at school. As the two lost boys engage in illegal activities, Jason is left to wonder about the father he never knew, urged to research Luke’s troubled life, making discoveries that alter his perception of the world.

Despite taking place in a single town populated with a handful of characters, “Pines” is an intriguingly elaborate movie, braiding together a story of fathers and sons with a crime drama and a tale of corrupt cops. It’s an overwhelming screenplay that elects a boomerang approach, taking care to monitor generational concern and habits as it establishes the misery of these anxious personalities. The engorged atmosphere of pain and its demand for screenplay structure suits Cianfrance quite well, as “Blue Valentine” suffered from a case of the nothings, wandering around as it cherry picked obvious ideas on dysfunction and despair. “Pines” has more ground to cover, keeping the director on target as he attempts to throw his arms around the world and touch fingertips, making the viewer feel the sting as the price of sin is deferred to future souls, finding Luke and Avery tied together in their shared misunderstanding of responsibility.

Divided into three chapters, “Pines” is at its best with the adults, isolating a feeling of helplessness as the men are forced to contemplate self-destructive actions that could ruin their lives. For Luke, redemption is within reach with Jason and Romina, ditching a meandering, violent life for domestic peace and a chance to provide the parental guidance he never received, turning to bank robbery as a quick solution to a lifelong problem. Avery is a privileged man (son to a State Supreme Court Judge, played by Harris Yulin) who wanted to make more of a direct impact in the field of justice, only to find himself up against a dishonest horde of cops dedicated to protecting their own interests. He’s also haunted by his run-in with Luke, pulling away from his own child as his contemplates Jason’s empty future. These are terrifically complex men, handed full-blooded performances from Gosling and Cooper, while Cianfrance sets a mood of reflection, sinking into a fogged headspace as the characters work out their next moves, electing separate paths of honesty and integrity to make their impact. It’s riveting, operatic material at times, with moody cinematography (making the most out of the woodsy locations) and an ethereal score from Faith No More frontman, Mike Patton. Cianfrance finds a feel of life to the picture in the first two acts that keeps “Pines” invested in its sophisticated scheme of paternal frustration, though the dip into cops-on-the-take matters plays a little too light for comfort, while the casting of Liotta as a ringleader of the creeps is much too obvious.

When “Pines” moves into its third stage of dysfunction, the story grinds to a halt. Chalk it up to lackluster performances from DeHaan and Cohen (who’s simply abysmal, channeling Andrew Dice Clay after a NyQuil bender), two actors Cianfrance indulges to their heart’s content, with the boys trying to method their way around fascinatingly cracked personalities. While Gosling and Cooper have moments of overcooked emotions, there’s skill there that’s missing from the younger generation, diluting the summation of burden and liberation as the sons join their fathers in the next stage of maturation. Cianfrance is stretching with the last act to make his circular points, only to lose command of “Pines,” filling dramatic potholes with predictability and overwrought behavior to push the picture to a climax.

“The Place Beyond the Pines” is uneven, concluding weakly when it commences with substantial authority. Despite a few headaches along the way, Cianfrance shows growth and purpose with the work, advancing him to interesting dramatic aspirations as he develops, displaying confidence with composition and showing an interest in risk that could one day lead to greatness.

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Rose Byrne, Eva Mendes, Ray Liotta, Bruce Greenwood
Director: Derek Cianfrance

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