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Place Beyond the Pines is Both Bleak and Beguiling

  • Christa Banister Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2013 4 Apr
  • COMMENTS
<i>Place Beyond the Pines</i> is Both Bleak and Beguiling

DVD Release Date: August 6, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: March 29, 2013 (limited) April 5, 2013 (expanded)
Rating: R (language throughout, some violence, teen drug and alcohol use, and a sexual reference)
Genre: Drama/Crime
Run Time: 140 min.
Director: Derek Clanfrance
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Ray Liotta, Rose Byrne, Emory Cohen, Dane DeHaan

Well, one thing’s for sure, director Derek Clanfrance sure knows how to break your heart. After his gloomy tale of a once-loving marriage gone sour in 2010’s critically acclaimed Blue Valentine, Clanfrance calls on Ryan Gosling (The Ides of March) once again for another turn as a tortured soul with a surprising soft side in The Place Beyond the Pines.

Much like Gosling’s character in Drive, Luke is also a man of few words with some seriously repressed emotions. A motorcycle stunt rider in a rag-tag traveling carnival, he’s got a need for speed, tattoos on practically every square inch of skin and a violent streak simmering just beneath the surface.

Now back in Schenectady, New York, the same place he and the lovely Romina (Eva Mendes, The Other Guys) hooked up the last time he was in town, she checks in with him again—just to see if he remembers her. As it turns out, he does, and he quickly discovers that she hasn’t been pining for him. In fact, she’s got a new boyfriend (Mahershala Ali, TV’s "House of Cards") and a young son, Jason.

Given the nature of Luke's here-today-gone-tomorrow profession, the fact she's moved on isn't exactly shocking. What is a bit of a revelation, however, is that he’s Jason’s father.

As rough around the edges as Luke clearly is, he’s fiercely determined to do the right thing. Naturally, Romina is skeptical—as any good Mama with a kid and a stable significant other should be. But little does she know, Luke wants to provide for Jason and win her back in the process. And to do so, he utilizes his particular set of skills to start robbing banks.

It’s during Luke’s elaborate crime spree that he first encounters Avery (Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook), a seemingly straight-laced police officer who also has a young son. Luke and Avery are an intriguing pair of opposites to say the least. The viewer learns a lot about these men without them even speaking, thanks to a handheld camera that picks up every important detail.

Like Luke, Avery has faced his share of moral dilemmas, and now, they’re mounting up like nobody’s business. Forced to choose whether to climb the career ladder or languish in the boring details of crime solving, his sense of obligation to his wife (Rose Byrne, Bridesmaids) and son are making his decisions very difficult indeed.

While Clanfrance has already given the audience plenty to chew on with the bleak but beguiling snapshots of Luke and Avery’s complicated lives, he stuffs yet another narrative into a film that was already getting too long. In what’s the film’s weakest link, we also get a ringside seat to what’s become of their sons fifteen years later.

Now if points were merely awarded on ambition, no doubt, The Place Beyond the Pines is nothing short of epic. From the first frame, one gets a sense that you’re watching something special. As a cautionary tale about the power of our personal choices, it largely succeeds, too. Unfortunately, the fact that Clanfrance didn’t know when to say when puts a drag on what's mostly a rewarding cinematic experience. If you're hoping for more of a feel-good sensibility, that's something Clanfrance hasn’t seemed game to give us yet.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol: Teenagers pop pills, smoke pot and drink alcohol. Social drinking and smoking depicted among adults as well.
  • Language/Profanity: Expletives, particularly the f-word and s-word, are used throughout, plus instances where God’s name is misused.
  • Sex/Nudity: Two characters are shown in bed together, but we don’t see much in the way of nudity. A man learns he fathered a child after a fling the year before.
  • Violence: The camera lingers over the bloody body of a gunshot victim. Guns also figure into other violent acts. Beatings, robberies, fighting are also shown, although not as graphically as in many films of this genre.

Christa Banister is an author and full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the MeddlersBased in Dallas, Texas, she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog.

Publication date: April 5, 2013