The Place Beyond the Pines stars super hot Hollywood actors sporting really awful haircuts. In Ryan Goslings case, he has a bad haircut, bad hair color, bad clothes, bad fake tattoos, et..
Kidding aside, The Place Beyond the Pines was a decent movie, a rarity for an early spring release.
The Place Beyond the Pines, follows two men, as their lives connect through a tragic circumstance. Ryan Gosling plays Luke, a carnival motorcycle stunt rider, who learns that he has fathered a son when he hooked up during the carnival's pass through Schenectady the previous year. He turns to bank robbery as a means to get quick cash to care for his child. Bradley Cooper plays the cop who pursues Gosling's character and has his own morality called into question when he becomes involved with a shady group of fellow police officers. The overriding themes are not only of the moral issues that confront the characters in the present, but the idea of generations repeating the patterns of their parents and nature vs. nurture.
I was most excited to see this movie based on the director/writer, Derek Cianfrance. Cianfrance's 2010 emotional roller coaster Blue Valentine, blew me away with its intensity and honesty. I thought it was best movie of 2010. The trailer for The Place Beyond the Pines didn't catch my attention, but the names involved did the trick.
This is an ambitious movie, very large in scale and themes. It's not what you would expect based on the trailer. It's extremely broad and there is no one central character. In fact, although Gosling and Cooper having starring roles, there are several very significant roles in the movie played by lesser known actors. This is very much an ensemble piece.
In particular, Ray Liotta plays a great menacing villain, contributing heavily to some of the more intense moments in the movie.
I felt like this movie bit-off more than it could chew and often times, it didn't quite gel, although I applaud the effort. The running time is two hours and twenty minutes and upon exiting the theater, I could have sworn that it was over three hours. The pacing is sluggish. There were many times when the same information and emotion could have been conveyed in a simplier manner. I felt like we were watching an extended directors cut. Cianfrance had many beautifully shot scenes and affecting writing, but he really needed to "Kill His Darlings" for the benefit of the whole movie.
The movie is artfully shot and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I loved the opening sequence of Gosling walking through the fair, shot from a perspective of right behind him. It captures the tone perfectly. The car chase sequence with Gosling and Cooper, shot from Cooper's perspective with shaky, realistic camera work is one of the best parts of the movie. It completely feeds in to Cooper's character's muddled memories and frame of mind.
What I didn't care for, was the over use of extreme close-ups and the overly dramatic film score. The score really ruined moments in the movie, adding a melodrama factor that wouldn't have been there otherwise. Again, it's all about keeping it simply stated and not adding that extra layer of drama that doesn't need to be there. As a movie goer, I shouldn't have actively noticed the score and it certainly shouldn't have been a distraction. The score created a barrier and a disconnect from the story.
The grandiose nature of the story would have maybe better lent itself to a novel, rather than a movie. There is so much going on with themes and characters, that it was hard to have them fully realized in a movie format. There are many interesting ideas thrown around creating a story that easily lends itself to conversation and debate. It stuck with us long after walking out of the theater and we were talking about it off and on all day.
This wasn't nearly as affecting as Blue Valentine, but even with the imperfections, it was a solid story with strong acting and often beautifully shot. It's worth seeing in the theater.