The Place Beyond the Pines
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Academy Award nominees Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper star in this epic, riveting crime drama about the unbreakable bond between fathers and sons. Luke (Gosling) gives up his job as a motorcycle stunt performer in order to provide for his new family. Avery (Cooper), an ambitious rookie cop, struggles to make his way in a corrupt police department. Their two worlds collide when Luke takes part in a string of bank robberies and the consequences of their shocking confrontation will reverberate into the next generation. From the acclaimed director of Blue Valentine and co-starring Eva Mendes and Ray Liotta, this engaging and powerful thrill ride has critics raving, “5 stars! The Place Beyond the Pines is huge in its ambition, huge in its achievement!” (Mick LaSalle, The San Francisco Chronicle)
"The place beyond the pines" is an idiomatic translation of the Native American word Schenectady, which is the tucked-away upstate New York setting where the triptych dramas of The Place Beyond the Pines unfold with deft, emotional grace. This second feature from director Derek Cianfrance is an ambitious reach into tragedy, honor, and responsibility experienced between fathers and sons. Even though the result falls a little short of his grasp, there's no denying the beauty and passion in the story he tells with such measured artistry and eloquent attention to process and form. Unlike his impressive debut, Blue Valentine, which hewed to a structure that lurched forward and back in observing the beginning and ending of a marriage, Pines follows a linear chronology in its three acts, but it is similarly jarring in the way the narrative plays out so unexpectedly. Act one follows Luke (Ryan Gosling), a motorcycle daredevil on the carnival circuit who discovers that the fling he had last year with Romina (Eva Mendes) left him with a son. The shell of tattoos and leather jacket Luke hides under can't disguise the effect this new reality has on him. He decides to stick around and try to weasel into the role of being a father, turning to bank robbery as a means of providing the support he believes he must. The story's second act abruptly leaves Luke behind, shifting the focus to Avery (Bradley Cooper), a rookie local cop with a law degree who truly wants to do good, even though police corruption is endemic even on the nice streets he patrols in his placid place beyond the pines. Avery also has a new son, but as much as Luke yearned to shower love on his boy, circumstances have led Avery to shut down and deny any feeling toward his child or his wife (Rose Byrne). Part three takes place 15 years later, when fate brings the two boys together and the legacy left to them by their fathers comes home to roost in an equally unpredictable fashion. AJ and Jason (Emory Cohen and Dane DeHaan) are thrown together in the unpleasantly realistic dance of teenage angst as Avery and Luke's sons. They are at first unaware of their fathers' association until the inevitable revelation and partial role reversal that winds the movie down. All the performances are terrific and Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper are at the top of their game, though their interaction is limited to one brief sequence. Gosling feels a little typecast as the moody, stone-faced, quick-tempered guy we've seen him play before, but his entire body is engaged in the way he snaps from calm to rage at the emotions brewing inside. Cooper is restrained and playing somewhat against type as a man who should be the hero, even though he's got more villain in him than the movie outright admits. Cianfrance displays an enormous advance as an auteur. The Place Beyond the Pines may not be the fully realized work he intended, but it is an absorbing and often deeply moving exercise in family dynamics and destinies that are never certain. --Ted Fry
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Ryan Gosling's performance is really good as a motorcycle stunt rider that works the carnival circuit along the Eastern Seaboard.
If you like father-son dynamics and cop thrillers, you'll probably like this one but might think it runs a bit long.