You would be forgiven for not noticing The Place Beyond the Pines. Beyond the film enthusiast blogs and trailer following online, the film has barely stirred the media.
You would be forgiven for not noticing The Place Beyond the Pines. Beyond the film enthusiast blogs and trailer following online, the film has barely stirred the media. Even if you did catch the trailers or spot an advert for The Place Beyond The Pines, it looks art-house, pretentious and grimly unhappy.
The Place Beyond the Pines is no glitzy action film or Hollywood romance but neither is it an almost unwatchable cult film (like Precious or Blue Valentine, the director’s previous film). It actually falls somewhere in-between, a gripping thriller with raw, visceral drama and a stellar cast.
The Place Beyond the Pines is an ambitious film because it is really three films, one after the other. The first ‘chapter’ is Luke’s (Ryan Gosling) story of biking prowess, brooding love, and fatal ambition. The second ‘chapter’ focuses on Avery (Bradley Cooper) a hero-cop dealing with a pressuring father and corrupt colleagues. The third and final chapter brings all the threads together and deals with the next generation of Goslings and Coopers.
The chaptering process is the film’s crowning glory and irritating flaw. The audience gets so much from one film but is also left hungry for more. What is Luke’s background? What do his tattoos mean? What is Avery’s relationship with his father? Why does Avery’s son talk like a ridiculous gangster? We never find out.
The Place Beyond the Pines puts its best foot forward by starting with Ryan Gosling. Luke is similar to Gosling’s character in Drive, another exceptional motoring talent from the dregs of society. Gosling is a star because, like James Dean or Marlon Brando, he can deftly convey both strength and fragility. Any fan of Gosling should see this film but when his chapter ends I felt a few minutes of really pissed off loss, I wanted more Gosling. How can Bradley Cooper’s cop follow Luke the enigmatic bank-robbing biker?
Bradley Cooper and Ryan Gosling are both pretty ‘hyped’ but I haven’t understood the fuss about Cooper. He’s the attractive one from the Hangover, master of mediocrity in Limitless and annoying in Silver Linings Playbook. But in The Place Beyond The Pines, Bradley Cooper lives up to the hype and gives a nuanced performance, Avery is both likeable and disappointingly weak.
I shouldn’t neglect the outstanding supporting cast; Eva Mendes, Ray Liotta, Ben Mendelsohn, Bruce Greenwood, Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen. I was surprised to see Eva Mendes so de-glammed, skinny and aged. She’s a talented actress if she can get decent roles that don’t just play on her sex appeal.
The theme that connects each chapter of this fantastic film is the classic source of drama, from The Iliad through Shakespeare to Star Wars; father and son relationships. I’m not sure whether there is any specific message from the film, perhaps the inevitability of following in your father’s footsteps.
But with a great film like The Place Beyond the Pines you could draw any conclusion, or you could sit back and enjoy it.