Saturday, April 13
REVIEW: The Place Beyond the Pines
Directed by Derek Cianfrance
2 hours 20 minutes
From Focus Features
I got out of this film and said to my partner... that just did not work. I surprised myself in saying it, too, because I thought it was a given it would be the hot new entry. First of all it had Ryan Gosling. With one or two exceptions, I love his films. And I think he is just about the most exciting North American actor there is. Trailing right behind is Derek Cianfrance who was Gosling's director for Blue Valentine, a little indy piece that moved me. Then there's the fact that this one isn't going the indy route... it was in theater #1 of my poshest cineplex.
When one adds Bradley Cooper to the proceedings, who rightfully wears the crown as the new king of Hollywood, well then, come on, you just know we have a hit here. Oh, how wrong you would be.
I am not saying I disliked the film, mind you (didn't love it either)... just that it didn't work. It didn't all come together. There were some holes here in plot and flow that were just too obvious to ignore.
The movie is done in three parts and this very fact provides the feel of a scattergun moving around the various plot pieces. It is too diffuse to really get into. By the film's end, there is just a hollow feel to it all and I just wanted to go home.
Part one belongs to Gosling and it is the best part although I gulp as I say that. He is a bleached blond, multi-tatted, carnival performer who is a motorcycle stunt rider with two others. They move from town to town and in this place he meets up with a former flame and the young son he didn't know he had. In an effort to bring them some financial security, he begins robbing banks.
As a result his life intersects with Cooper who is an ambitious rookie cop. I pause here as I question where I can go with Cooper's part two of the film and I conclude I can't say much. The plot unfolds during this part and it would be unwise for me to say much. I do not want you to call me names. I do not like how Cooper's character was written... his strengths and weaknesses were so jumbled up, so difficult to pinpoint. I found him to be too much of a Pollyanna knitwit and in the next scene he thinks he's Jack Webb from Dragnet. What were they trying to say about this guy? Who was he?
He also has a son. Some 15 years spin by now into part three we more or less start over as we learn about the sons of Cooper and Gosling.
Another feature for me here that gives me a case of the blahs is that there isn't a character to root for, certainly none of the main characters. They are all lacking in social graces and have few redeeming qualities. When that's the case, I think reviews like this often result.
One thing I will hand to The Place Beyond the Pines (a type of title that is never easy to remember and once one sees the film, is utterly pointless as well), it has some good acting across the board.
One could say the film is about fathers and sons, certainly about how the behaviors of the fathers are rolled out to the sons. But the manner in which we are fed that information is choppy and in serious need of some cohesion. It tried to say too much and ended up not saying much of anything at all.
I'm hanging in there with Derek Cianfrance, however. I think there's much about you to admire but this time it's a misfire. Hey, I rhyme.