Monday, May 6, 2013

3 Thoughts on The Place Beyond the Pines

1. Part 1 - Overall, I would say this is a solid film. However, the narrative is broken into 3 distinct parts; the first part is sublime, the second part is good, the third part is so bad it hurts.  I could watch the first part on a continuous loop for days and be perfectly happy.  It's centered on Ryan Gosling's character, Luke, a role similar to The Driver in Drive - mysterious, quiet, introspective, with little to no background information.  The catalyst of the story is Luke finding out that he has a newborn son with an ex-fling, Romina, portrayed by Eva Mendes; determined to do the right thing, he quits his job as a traveling motorcycle stunt driver and decides to stay in town to help raise his son.  There are several powerful scenes over the course of the first 40 minutes, the only thing to do is watch in complete awe.  The height of perfection is a scene that takes place at Romina's work (a diner), where she begins to question how exactly he plans to take care of them.    It's an emasculating question, and you can feel his internal struggle (as well as hers) because he doesn't actually have a solid plan.  It was at this point that I thought, "wow, this is going to be my favorite film of the year".  The momentum continues with Luke, partnering with a new friend, Robin (Ben Mendelsohn), committing local bank robberies (totally solid plan..).  These robbery scenes are perfectly intense and thrilling, because at this point, I was reminded "oh yeah, Bradley Cooper plays a cop, and will probably show up any minute".  The first part of the movie, ends boldly and abruptly (it's not exactly original, but it did surprise me) and the focus shifts to Cooper's character, Avery.  Sadly, it all goes downhill from there.

2. Part 2 - Back in 2001, we saw the release of the television show, Alias, one of my all-time favorite shows, co-starring Bradley Cooper and we had the release of the movie, The Believer, which is the film that really launched Ryan Gosling's career.  Both of these guys have been on my radar for 12 years, and when I heard the news that they were going to be in a film together, I had to remind myself to breathe.  That being said, unfortunately, after the dynamic performance from Gosling, Cooper is a bit of a letdown.  Part of it has to do with the story-line, which I won't get into details because it would spoil part 1, but mostly it has to do with his presence (or lack there of).  Why do I root for a bank robber (who let's face it - is also sort of an asshole), over a cop (who falters, but ultimately does the right thing; even if it is for selfish motivation)?? While Gosling exudes a natural charisma and coolness, Cooper gives some wonderfully emotional scenes, but lacks a personality.  The second part of the movie drags a bit and is more predictable, but it is still good (although compared to the first part, it's not even in the same league of cinematic brilliance). Then it all comes crashing down in the third act.

3. Part 3 - Let me start off by saying that I appreciate what writer/director, Derek Cianfrance, did.  The Place Beyond the Pines is an epic story, with classic Greek tragedy themes, while still feeling real and scaled back.  It's not easy to do, and again, overall, I would call the movie a success.  I just can't get behind this third part.  Nothing about it felt right; starting with the casting.  First, the absolute worst part of the movie is Emory Cohen, as AJ (Avery's son).  Everything about him didn't fit; he looks nothing like Bradley Cooper or Rose Byrne, he talks/dresses/acts like he is from the Jersey Shore and he looks like he's in his 30's (he's not; he's 23, but he is supposed to be 16 - some guys can pull this off. He can't).  Someone who is born and raised in Upstate NY would not be like this (I'm from Upstate NY and I've never encountered anyone like this, unless they came from somewhere else). I might have forgiven this odd choice, if the guy could actually act. I was so put off by this entire character, that I spent the last 30 minutes praying for the movie to end.  Second, Dane Dehaan is an excellent actor, but his character didn't really fit for me either.  He is supposed to take after characteristics from his dad, Luke, but instead of an effortless cool, he is the awkward loner.  The main theme of the movie is obviously the importance of a father in a sons life, but I'm bothered by the fact that he doesn't appreciate that he has a father-figure in his life, who clearly cares about him (therefore, I don't sympathize with the character, at all). Third, the pace of this last part was horrendously slow.  I actually began to ask myself whether I was watching the worst movie of the year.  It's just such a drastic drop in quality from the beginning, it makes me sad to think about.  Last, I recommend this movie, but maybe just leave before it gets really bad (you'll know exactly when, I promise).

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