The Place Beyond the Pines Review

THE-PLACE-BEYOND-THE-PINES-Poster

 

Returning to the director’s chair after his hit indie film Blue Valentine, with The Place Beyond the Pines Derek Cianfrance proves that he can be considered a truly great, new director. A sprawling two and half hour long epic, The Place Beyond the Pines is a story in three parts that delves into themes of morality, determinism, and closely examines the effects fathers have on their children, and visa-versa. This film is an emotional powerhouse, with a fantastic performance from Ryan Gosling, as well as strong performances all around. Expecting to dislike this movie, I was absolutely blown away by the film.

The film takes place in the small New York town of Schenectady, which interestingly enough is a name loosely taking from a Mohawk word that translates to “Place Beyond the Pines.” The movie first centers on Ryan Gosling as “Handsome” Luke Glanton, a professional and heavily tattooed motorcycle rider who goes city to city with a traveling carnival. However he gives this life up when he is informed that a woman he has slept with in Schenectady is raising his now one year old son. Luke turns to a life of crime and starts robbing banks in order to provide for his newly born son. Bradley Cooper’s character Avery, a police man and moral paragon, is then introduced and the film shifts its focus to a tale of police corruption and Avery’s struggle with it. Finally, the third and most interesting act of the film is about the friendship and conflict between the sons of the earlier protagonists, as they struggle with their respective relationships with their fathers, as well as dealing with the history between Luke and Avery.

While much of the talk about this film has been glowing praise for Ryan Gosling (let’s be honest here, this is nothing new, he’s great), the acting all around is pretty excellent. Specifically, Eva Mendes’s portrayal of Luke Glanton’s poverty stricken baby mama is a step away from her usual roles, as well as a highlight of the film. However, some of the best acting in the film comes from Dane DeHaan, who is likely best known as the lead in last year’s found footage superhero flick, Chronicle. As Luke’s 17 year old son, DeHaan is tragic and compelling, bringing a much needed emotional center to the latter half of the film.

What makes this film achieve a level of excellence, however, is not the acting but rather the thematic through lines of the film. The film is ambitious in its approach to tackling issues of paternal relationships, as well as morality, which raises an interesting conversation about how morality relates to cultural standards and laws. At the same time, the film does a perfect job of not overextending thematically, by which I mean the film doesn’t try to tackle anything that was too lofty to wrap up by the end. This movie leaves the viewer with a desire to ponder the films themes, without leaving any serious unanswered questions. It’s a hugely emotional film, as well as a film with just the perfect amount of depth. I could not recommend this film more highly.

Rating: 5 out of 5

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Gabriel’s Top 10 Movies of 2012

10. End of Watch

This was hands down the best buddy cop movie of the year. That being said it was also one of the only buddy cop movies of the year, but don’t let that diminish it’s accomplishments. Sure, it has some flaws, like the villain’s lacking performances, but that doesn’t stop this from being an all around hilarious, heart breaking, and magnetic film. It was just a blast to watch, and I would recommend it to anyone who loves film.

9. Lincoln

This film really surpassed all my expectations. Sure, I had heard that Daniel Day Louis was spectacular in the title role, but that didn’t stop me from prematurely judging this as the typical Spielbergian sentimental dreck. Luckily, the truly fascinating nature of the civil war era and Lincoln himself were there to help the film transcend the typical. Also, [insert obligatory Daniel Day Louis was amazing comment].

8. I Wish

Hirokazu Koreeda must be the single most underrated Japanese filmmaker of all time. Ever since his first masterpiece, Maborosi, in 1995, he’s been putting out some of the most interesting work in film, period. His most recent movie, I Wish, ranks among his best work, giving us a naturalistic look at two brothers struggle to stay together after their parents’ divorce. Koreeda was able to marvelously sums up many of the wonders of childhood and in a manner that is worthy of the many Japanese masters before him.

7. Flight

This and End of Watch where hands down my biggest surprises of 2012. Going in I expected an ok film that would probably just end up turning into more of the standard Robert Zemekes fair. I’m happy to say I was quite wrong. It turned out to be a rather stirring look at the detrimental effects of alcoholism with the added bonus of probably one of the greatest, most chilling plain crashes in all of cinema. Not to mention the incredible and quite unique performance from Denzel Washington.

6. The Cabin in the Woods

There are few films I can say just fill me with absolute joy. They reduce me to a state of unadulterated glee from which nothing can take me. Cabin in the Woods is one of these such films. It may at first seem like a generic slasher flick, but in reality, it’s one of the most imaginative, creative, and brilliant horror film I’ve seen in years. There’s little more I can say other than that I left the theater with a smile plastered to my face and in utter awe.

5. Holy Motors

This movie really through me for a loop. It’s really quite different from anything I’ve ever seen before. Unlike a conventional film narrative, it’s a more akin to a journey through life and cinema. The film admittedly presents the audience with a real challenge, but amazingly it’s always fascinating to watch, primarily for the enlightening central performance by Denis Lavant. Just in the course of this 115 minute film he takes us so many different places, while still remaining the center that holds this film together.

4. Monsieur Lazhar

Monsieur Lazhar is a film about death and the ways we cope with it. It shows us a fourth grade class dealing with the cryptic suicide of their homeroom teacher, and Bachir Lazhar, who takes it upon himself to replace that said teacher. At first glance this may seem like the typical teacher-saves-troubled-kids film, but it’s much more than that. There is an irrefutable emotional reality here that gives it a profundity found in very few films, and I just couldn’t help but be drawn into this touching and beautiful portrait of grief.

3. Moonrise Kingdom

With Wes Anderson’s most recent film, Moonrise Kingdom, he creates the sort of storybook tale we would read before bedtime as youths. He takes that whimsical and colorful time in our lives and puts it on the screen to a magnificent effect. Sure, some people might be a bit turned of by his idiosyncratic style, but I think he uses it to perfect effect here to create something I can’t wait to show to my kids someday.

PS. Check out my review here: https://simplyfilm.org/2012/07/14/moonrise-kingdom-review/

2. Django Unchained

Quentin Tarantino will always have a very special place in my heart. He was in a lot of ways the first director I really got to know. In my film nerd infancy, many years ago, the first thing I ever did was marathon through Tarantino entire filmography. It was from that moment that I always knew I would love movies. He was just a master. You could see it in every frame. He just draws you into his spell of movie magic and taking you along on a euphoric ride through cinema. Sure, he’s a bit overindulgent and I don’t think he’s usually very ambitious thematically,  but he just fills me to the brim with everything I love about film, and Django is just another fantastic example of that.

1. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

I will not deny the fact that this is a difficult film. At a goliath two and a half hours, it’s hard to imagine how this movie could be worth it. But, I assure you that this will be hands down the greatest experience you will have all year. Under the guise of a conventional police procedural this is actually a remarkable exploration of truth and perception in the face of a morally gray world. Nuri Bilge Ceylan, the director, gives us a film that, on a purely visual level, may even surpass Prometheus. Sure it’s challenging, it’s slow, it’s long, it’s obtuse, but I do not doubt for a moment that the reward is worth the challenge. So if you feel up to it, you won’t be disappointed, and if you don’t, well, you’re missing something truly amazing.

Honorable Mentions

Zero Dark Thirty, Elena, The Dark Knight Rises, Safety Not Guaranteed, Silver Linings Playbook, This Is Not a Film, Oslo, August 31st, The Kid with a Bike, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Bernie, Looper, Prometheus, Borne Legacy, Sleepwalk With Me, Raid: The Redemption, The Impostor, 21 Jump Street, and Chronicle.