Movie News

Monday, April 15, 2013


THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES is a film you must go see, but a place you never want to visit.
It's a story about families and the blurred line between heroes and villains.
It's ambitious in structure and reminds you that big stars can be big talents as well.
PINES doesn't try to tell one, concise tale. 
It aims higher, goes after deep truths, and mostly succeeds.

The film is seemingly based around Luke (Ryan Gosling), a motorcycle rider in a traveling carnival.
There is no origin story, but his numerous tattoos and profession give you a (partial) picture.
Luke is not entirely unlike Gosling's zen 'Driver' from DRIVE, but is much simpler.
Like all the characters in PINES, he stays wholly authentic to himself.
He often fulfills your low expectations, but tries harder than you'd expect, in ways most never dare.

Luke's story revolves around a woman he once loved and the child-result of that love.
With his motorcycle skills and a desire to change the lives of his family, he begins robbing banks.
You think you've seen this before.
Then you meet Avery (Bradley Cooper) as the cop on his tail.
And you are sure you've seen this before.
However, PINES dares to be different and subverts the cop/robber genre with emotion, not action.

I last saw Bradley Cooper in SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK was greatly impressed with his work.
He (and Gosling) remind you that the best looking actors, sometimes, are the best working actors.
Here, Cooper gives a powerful and engaging performance as a cop turned "hero".
I put hero in quotation marks, not because the status is unjust, but because it is so fleeting.
Once the cameras go away and the "hero" is off the pedestal, people tend to revert to their norm. 

In modern society, we have become desensitized to the everyday actions and duties of police.
We constantly watch them work on TV, or portrayed in film, often seeing the extreme scenarios.
We engage with them from the safety of our couches or movie theater and leave them there.
We like to think of police in character form because it's easier to comprehend.
When they do well, we give them medals and hold press conferences.
Rarely do we stop to think about them as real (and sometimes flawed) people, doing a job.

Their job and the action within it can be disturbing, in multiple ways, to others and themselves.
They are tasked with pursuing "justice", but are often left to interpret the term as they wish.
PINES shows that justice does not always act as closure to the case.
In some instances, the results of their work cause more action and more pain.
The results of Luke and Avery's actions comprise the film's final act.

I will not discuss the third act in detail because it would take away from the emotion of PINES.
The big reveal is anticlimactic, but if you've gone two hours, you'll stay the last thirty minutes.
It bravely focuses on long term repercussions, but with somewhat mixed results.
I felt the film suffered from the length of act three.
I think that Writer/Director, Derek Cianfrance committed wholly to the three act structure. 
He strives to give each act a separate, but equal, gravitas.
However, the plan works better with Gosling and Cooper's talents carrying the action.

Overall, THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES is worth seeing because it's a breath of fresh air.
When you hear "cops and robbers", starring two big heartthrobs, you make assumptions.
PINES uses originality and subtlety to discard those notions and is much better for it.
It takes you on a thrilling ride, but it is not a thrill-ride.

It reminds you that guns and emotions are very real things, each with the ability to change lives.
The film's greatest success is showcasing the impact they have on the lives of real people.
Neither should be taken for granted, but all too often are, with dire consequences.
PINES has originality, smart performances by Gosling and Cooper and a powerful message.
I give it a strong 4, out of 5.

1 comment: