×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘The Place Beyond the Pines’

Two half-stories about fathers and sons on opposite sides of the law do not a full movie make in "The Place Beyond the Pines," the overlong and under-conceived reunion between "Blue Valentine" director Derek Cianfrance and star Ryan Gosling.

With:
Luke - Ryan Gosling Avery - Bradley Cooper Romina - Eva Mendes Jennifer - Rose Byrne Robin - Ben Mendelsohn Kofi - Mahershala Ali Jason - Dane DeHaan AJ - Emory Cohen Deluca - Ray Liotta

Two half-stories about fathers and sons on opposite sides of the law do not a full movie make in “The Place Beyond the Pines,” the overlong and under-conceived reunion between “Blue Valentine” director Derek Cianfrance and lookalike star Ryan Gosling. Divided into three segments tacked one after the other, the film begins with a lean “Drive”-like portrayal of a motorcycle daredevil (Gosling) who takes to robbing banks after learning he has an infant son to support. Then the story takes a hard right turn, effectively starting over with another, less charismatic character. Once word gets out, audiences will evaporate.

Taking its name from the Iroquois meaning of Schenectady, N.Y., where the pic takes place, this gravely serious indie drama treats the city as the capital of compromise, where values turn rancid the instant idealists come into contact with the other deadbeats in town. A brooding ladykiller half-covered in amateur tattoos, “Handsome Luke” (Gosling) rides bikes for a living. Returning to Schenectady as part of a traveling stunt show, Luke runs into lonely but unyielding Romina (Eva Mendes), a former one-night stand, only to find that she’s raising his kid. Luke quits on the spot and angles to insert himself into his infant son’s life, though Ro resists.

She has good reason to be wary, it turns out, since Luke’s idea of providing for the family entails knocking over local banks with no-good mechanic friend Robin (Ben Mendelsohn), a short-term scheme virtually guaranteed to end badly.

Popular on Variety

When it does, Cianfrance tries to keep things going by following Avery Cross (played with considerably less magnetism by Bradley Cooper), the rookie cop who sabotages what little chance Ro had of raising her son right.

From here on, “Pines” shifts gears, focusing on Cross. Rather than finding a creative way for behavior to illuminate the character’s state of mind, Cianfrance and co-writers Ben Coccio and Darius Marder present a succession of on-the-nose scenes during which the conflicted Cross visits a police shrink, chats with his service buddies and eventually appeals to his big-shot dad (Harris Yulin) about pulling some strings.

Flash forward 15 years, and the same approach applies to Luke’s and Aaron’s sons, each of whom is coping with the consequences of his parents’ selfish decisions. Aaron’s now struggling to raise teenage AJ (Emory Cohen) on his own and horrified that the youth is getting chummy with Luke’s son (Dane DeHaan, a picture of barely contained rage), but nowhere near as upset as the latter is to learn about his father.

Where “Blue Valentine” succeeded by laying bare elemental human emotions, then scrambling them in a way that felt daring and fresh, “The Place Beyond the Pines” internalizes much of what the characters are feeling while telling their stories in rote, linear fashion. Presented as such, without subplots or any clear sense of forward momentum, the film feels relatively meager in its insights. And yet the solution seems painfully obvious: Remix the three chronological stories, and the fragments might serve to reveal one another, particularly as each follows its own mini-arc.

While that may have been the original intent of Cianfrance and his editors, Jim Helton and Ron Patane, no evidence of any such effort remains, resulting in the same sort of less-interesting treatment one might get by, say, rearranging “Memento” into chronological order.

Dischordant music cues and striking widescreen lensing, a mix of austere frames and woozy handheld, create an uneasy mood upon which the pic only partially capitalizes.

Film Review: 'The Place Beyond the Pines'

Production: A Focus Features release of a Sierra/Affinity presentation of a Sidney Kimmel Entertainment/Electric City Entertainment production in association with Verisimilitude. (International sales: CAA/WME, Los Angeles.) Produced by Jamie Patricof, Lynette Howell, Alex Orlovsky, Sidney Kimmel. Executive producers, Jim Tauber, Matt Berenson, Bruce Toll. Directed by Derek Cianfrance. Screenplay, Screenplay, Ben Coccio, Darius Marder, Cianfrance.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Sean Bobbitt; editors, Jim Helton, Ron Patane; music supervisor, Gabe Hilfer; production designer, Inbal Weinberg; art director, Mike Ahern; set decorator, Jasmine Ballou; costume designer, Erin Benach; sound, Damian Elias Canelos; sound designer, Dan Flosdorf; re-recording mixer, Dan Timmons; special effects coordinator, Drew Jiritano; visual effects supervisor, Jim Rider; visual effects, Method Studios; stunt coordinator, Robert Smyj; associate producers, Katie McNeill, Crystal Powell; assistant director, Mariela Comitini; casting, Cindy Tolan. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Special Presentations), Sept. 7, 2012. Running time: 140 MIN.

With: Luke - Ryan Gosling Avery - Bradley Cooper Romina - Eva Mendes Jennifer - Rose Byrne Robin - Ben Mendelsohn Kofi - Mahershala Ali Jason - Dane DeHaan AJ - Emory Cohen Deluca - Ray LiottaWith: Gabe Fazio, Bruce Greenwood, Olga Merediz, Kevin Craig West, Harris Yulin.

More Film

  • The Aeronauts Movie

    'The Aeronauts' Production Team Helps Hot-Air Balloon Saga Soar

    For cinematographer George Steel, the key to “The Aeronauts,” director Tom Hooper’s $80 million film starring Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne as balloonist-scientists who soar to 35,000 feet to break records in 1862, was to take the viewer along for the ride. When Variety visited the cast and crew on set in London, Steel was crouched [...]

  • Biggest Scandals Feuds and Apologies of

    Biggest Scandals, Feuds and Apologies of 2019

    Variety looks back on some of the biggest scandals, feuds and apologies of 2019: College Admissions Scandal Wealthy parents including Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin were charged with bribing school officials to get their unqualified kids into prestigious universities. Popular on Variety Shane Gillis Executives at “SNL” hired, then fired, Gillis in September, before the [...]

  • The Unknown Saint

    'The Unknown Saint' Director Alaa Eddine Aljem on Pushing Arab Boundaries With Comedy

    Young Moroccan writer-director Alaa Eddine Aljem chose to tackle a sensitive subject in his first feature, absurdist comedy “The Unknown Saint,” which is basically about “the relationship between faith and money,” he says. He spoke to Variety about using sophisticated humor to push boundaries in the Arab world and reflected on the journey of his debut, which after [...]

  • The Irishman

    'The Irishman' Nabs 17.1 Million U.S. Viewers on Netflix in First Five Days, per Nielsen

    Martin Scorsese’s mafia saga “The Irishman” was watched by 17.1 million unique Netflix viewers in the U.S. in the first five days of its streaming release, according to Nielsen estimates. By comparison, Sandra Bullock-starrer “Bird Box” scored nearly 26 million U.S. viewers in its first seven days of availability (Dec. 21-27, 2018) on Netflix, according [...]

  • De-aging Robert De Niro For Scorsese's

    'The Irishman': A Closer Look at the De-Aging of De Niro in Scorsese's Mob Epic

    Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” hits Netflix today and it stars Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci. De Niro plays Frank Sheeran, a truck driver who meets Russell Bufalino (Pesci). Spanning several decades, the film follows Sheeran as he gets involved in the greatest unsolved mob mystery – the disappearance of union boss Jimmy [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content