The Place Beyond the Pines (2012) Directed by Derek Cianfrance
Ryan Gosling is becoming the Aryan hunk of a man it's OK to like. He tends to play these violent, well meaning psychos it's acceptable to fall in love with (usually adorned with a designer t-shirt). There is a gruffness of personality he shares with Steve McQueen and a young Clint Eastwood. Gosling doesn't say much in his films and when he does, it isn't the smartest dialogue. But still we end up rooting for the dastardly hick. It's that magic some actors have that they can communicate so much with a shrug, a long eyelash look or even an air of indifference. Gosling is drowning with such esoteric charisma that even when playing such a veritable self-obsessed shit as Luke, his character in The Place Beyond The Pines, we root for him and with him. He dominates this film in so many ways that The Place Beyond The Pines could be a hymn to that quality, that magic that Gosling has as an actor that we can't really put into words.
But I would be selling The Place Beyond The Pines short If I was to concentrate just on Gosling. This is great cinema (in that it looks good and should be seen on the big screen), The Place Beyond The Pines is filled with an emotional richness and connect that films rarely deliver. Malik would love to move you this much, but his technique and GOD get in the way. Although more epic than Derek Cianfrance's previous picture Blue Valentine, it's the little details and observations that really pull you into this picture. It's a ridiculous scenario where Gosling's motorcycle stunt man find's out he's fathered a child, tries to change his ways to be near his son and suffers tragic consequences that will bear influence on so many lives 15 years on.
But Cianfrance's gift to us here is that as much as he gives us the loveable rogue that is Gosling he also offers his antidote, the unlovable straight guy Bradley Cooper. The fact that we learn to care about Cooper's young cop with ambitions (Avery) and get involved in his plight shows the skill of the storytelling and amazing performances (Ray Liotta (scary) and Eva Mendes give great support). This pulls us in even when Cianfrance offers us an impossible twist. When the kids grow up and we get to the second generation, it's welling up time. Mike Patton's score moves in key scenes. As a father who has lost a father The Place Beyond The Pines had extra clout. I related to some of this. Family – it's the ties that bind for better or worse, it's the things that shape you that you don't even acknowledge. The Place Beyond The Pines hit my raw nerves with it's simple beauty. Don't miss.
It doesn't happen a lot nowadays that a movie has a profound effect on me. It happens even more rarely that it's a film about fathers and sons. Women hardly figure in this story and yet, I was slightly changed after seeing this one (and in tears already at 30 minutes in). The Place Beyond the Pines works as a story and as cinema. It is like an old-fashioned movie where the story is what really matters while amazing acting happens and you almost take it for granted...The camera does not merely record here, it narrates and the soundtrack helps along nicely too. It's like a Clint Eastwood film from his directing period or a 1970s film with a great big budget but all the daring still left into the outcome.
Derek Cianfrance must be a genius. His film before this was Blue Valentine, another heart-breakingly good movie from the recent years. Ryan Gosling appears in both movies and after seeing this second one I have to begin to admitting to his great presence and scope as an actor. The role he plays in The Place... is in no way flattering or cool: a youngish man who goes from one bad life choice to even worse self-destruction while his attempt is to do good. Yet, Gosling can play a jerk so that his intentions seem genuinely good and his Eminem-look amazingly stylish.
People's lives unravel in uncontrollable and unimaginable ways. Generations change and while from one perspective very little changes with them, from another view point it seems that everything is different for the son of a father (for better or for worse). Living is an incredible fragile treasure and having a family is both brilliant and hellish. All of our lovely attachments make us forever vulnerable and possibly miserable too (just look at the happiness economics). The Place Beyond the Pines is full of wonder. I'm going to watch it again soon.