Derek Cianfrance's 'The Place Beyond The Pines' Can't See The Forest For The Trees

By Anthony Taormina
Released: March 29, 2013
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Luke (Academy Award nominee Ryan Gosling) is a high-wire motorcycle stunt performer who travels with the carnival from town to town. While passing through Schenectady in upstate New York, he tries to reconnect with a former lover, Romina (Eva Mendes), only to learn that she has given birth to their son Jason in his absence. Luke decides to give up life on the road to try and provide for his newfound family by taking a job as a car mechanic. Noticing Luke's ambition and talents, his employer Robin (Ben Mendelsohn) proposes to partner with Luke in a string of spectacular bank robberies - which will place Luke on the radar of ambitious rookie cop Avery Cross (Academy Award nominee Bradley Cooper). Avery, who has to navigate a local police department ruled by the menacing and corrupt detective Deluca (Ray Liotta), is also struggling to balance his professional life with his family life, which includes his wife Jennifer (Rose Byrne) and their infant son AJ. The consequences of Avery's confrontation with Luke will reverberate into the next generation. It is then that the two sons, Jason (Dane DeHaan) and AJ (Emory Cohen), must face their fateful, shared legacy.
Film Review
Derek Cianfrance's The Place Beyond the Pines is a movie with lofty aspirations. Weaving three separate stories together, the film seeks to tackle some complex subject matter - namely the relationships between fathers and sons - with authentic dialogue and razor sharp acting. While, in many respects, the movie delivers on its promises, it's ultimately a pretty hollow moviegoing experience. It seems like a movie that knew what story it wanted to tell, or at least what themes it wanted to address, but the filmmakers couldn't do so effectively.

The film starts with the story of Ryan Gosling's Luke Glanton, a carnival stuntman whose world is turned upside down after he learns he has a son. Glanton then turns to a life of crime, and puts his life on a crash course with bad news and the protagonist of the film's second act, Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper). It's when the two character's lives cross (up until this point the audience has been oblivious to Cross's existence, mind you) that the film switches gears. Any momentum built on the back of Gosling's character - whose story is captivating if a little aimless - is lost, and Cross's story as a rookie cop working in a corrupt system fails to pick up the pieces.

It's this changing of gears that is the most disorienting about The Place Beyond the Pines, and it does a disservice to any semblance of cohesion. As a result, the whole film - which features another "changing of the guard" for the third act - feels like a series of scenes without any purpose. As the film tries to interconnect its characters, things become more contrived and even less enjoyable.

Overall, there are some intriguing concepts at play in The Place Beyond the Pines, and the subject matter feels raw and authentic at places. But, for the most part, it falters heavily. If perhaps the film had switched between Cooper and Gosling's characters, the switch might have been less jarring, and by extension the audience wouldn't feel abandoned. Ultimately, The Place Beyond the Pines is one hour too long, has one storyline too many, and is all talk with little walk. Even though there are flashes of brilliance, and great performances, it's not the taught drama I'd hoped it to be.
Bradley Cooper and Ryan Gosling headline a cast of top talent who breathe real life into these characters in The Place Beyond The Pines. While the movie and the subject matter might not be exceptional, the acting certainly is. Cooper is excellent as Cross, a cop who questions the morality of his actions in a world filled with immoral people. Gosling's performance is equally as compelling as a newly christened father who will go to great lengths to support his family. But the film's real standout is Ben Mendelsohn as Robin, Glanton's confidant and boss. Mendelsohn is charming, funny, and a genuinely interesting character to watch even if he doesn't get all that much screen time. He doesn't get much to do in most of his roles, but Mendelsohn brings something unique to all of them.

Release Date
March 29, 2013
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