Movie Review: The Place Beyond the Pines


Hello again, my geeky friends!

With few exceptions, films are broken down into 3 acts. The Place Beyond the Pines is unique in that it’s broken down into 3 complete films. Each act is a self-contained film. The latest by director Derek Cianfrance is an ambitious film to be sure. In fact it might be a little too ambitious for its own good.

The basic plot line is simple. Luke (Ryan Gosling) is a stunt motorcycle rider in a low rent traveling fair. When the fair comes back to town and he meets up with a past one night stand (Eva Mendes) he learns that he has a child. Deciding he wants to be in the child’s life and he wants to take care of both the child and the Mother, Luke quits the fair and tries to get a job. The problem is he has no real skills to fall back on, and the baby’s mother is already in a stable relationship with Kofi (Mahershala Ali) who treats the child as if it were his own.

Desperate to provide for his new child, Luke teams up with Robin (Ben Mendelsohn) to use his one skill, stunt riding, to rob banks. It all goes well for a while until it doesn’t. In the middle of escaping from a bank job, Luke comes face to face with rookie cop Avery (Bradley Cooper) and things begin to fall apart rather quickly.

Everything I’ve just described happens in the first forty-five minutes. The problem is there is still another ninety minutes to go. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film that feels more like a novel. The structure of this film would work a lot better in book form. In a novel you can cover generations in a characters life and follow different characters as they grow up and grow old. You can do this because you have lots of pages and chapters to do so. In a film, even one that runs 140 minutes, doing the same thing can be tricky.

Ryan Gosling and Ben Mendelsohn are great, in fact all the actors are doing great work here. Bradley Cooper sells the edgy and nervous rookie cop and his transformation to seasoned veteran very well. The problem is, he is in a different movie than Ryan Gosling. The way the film is structured, the least interesting storyline comes in the last thirty minutes.

I was floored by Derek Cianfrance’s first film, Blue Valentine, in fact it was almost my favorite film the year it came out. I was looking forward to his latest and don’t get me wrong, this is a very good film. It just feels a little long towards the end. The inherent problem here is that we don’t get to spend enough time with any character or storyline long enough to really care what happens to them.

If this were a novel, I would buy it in a heartbeat and read it because the story is an interesting one. I think this would work better as a mini-series on HBO or something like that. That way we could really spend time with each character and get invested in their plight.

As it stands, it falls a little short of the mark but it is well worth seeing for the performances alone.

3 stars out of 5.

Until next time, keep the projector threaded.

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