×

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.

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

  • Tarantino Movies Ranked Illustration

    All of Quentin Tarantino's Movies Ranked

    In the history of cinema, has any director done more to elevate the idea of movies as cool than Quentin Tarantino? Certainly, the idea that films could be made by fans dates back at least to the French New Wave, when a group of die-hard critics stepped behind the camera. A few years later, Spielberg, [...]

  • A Stranger on the Beach

    Anonymous Content Wins Film Rights to Michele Campbell's 'A Stranger on the Beach' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Anonymous Content has won the adaptive rights to the forthcoming Michele Campbell novel “A Stranger on the Beach.” In a competitive situation, Anonymous outbid multiple players for the thriller, which it will adapt for the big screen with in-house producers Alex Goldstone and Rosalie Swedlin. “Stranger” has been likened to sensual thrillers like “Fatal Attraction” [...]

  • Ridley Scott Matt Damon Ben Affleck

    Ridley Scott, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Nicole Holofcener Team on 'The Last Duel'

    Ridley Scott looks to have his next directing job, as he has signed on to direct “The Last Duel” with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck attached to star. Damon and Affleck co-wrote the script with Oscar-nominated Nicole Holofcener. Scott, Damon and Affleck all producing along with Scott’s producing partner Kevin Walsh. Drew Vinton is also [...]

  • Jonathan Taylor Thomas Ed Asner Elliott

    Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Ed Asner, Elliott Gould Seek SAG-AFTRA Board Seats

    Ed Asner, Elliott Gould and Jonathan Taylor Thomas are seeking SAG-AFTRA national board seats as members of presidential candidate Matthew Modine’s progressive Membership First slate. Asner is the former president of the Screen Actors Guild, serving two terms from 1981 to 1985, and winning five Emmys for his role as Lou Grant and two others [...]

  • Natalie Portman Thor Comic Con

    Comic-Con: Marvel 'Shock and Awe' Strategy Dominates Twitter Buzz

    Disney’s Marvel Studios handily won the hype trophy from this year’s Comic-Con International San Diego. Marvel Studios — which returned to the 2019 Comic-Con stage with a chock-full Phase 4 slate of announcements — dominated the discussion on Twitter out of the convention, capturing the biggest volume of buzz for nine of the top 10 [...]

  • Chris Rock - Netflix

    Chris Rock's 'Saw' Reboot Moves Up Five Months to May 2020

    Lionsgate has moved Chris Rock’s upcoming “Saw” reboot forward by five months to May 15, 2020, vacating the pre-Halloween date of Oct. 23, 2020. The studio indicated Monday that it decided to move the untitled “Saw” movie into the summer slot after seeing early footage from the set of the film currently shooting in Toronto. The move [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content