‘The Place Beyond the Pines’, is a strange piece of work from director Derek Cianfrance. It’s split into three distinct parts, with a few characters crossing over into all three, but for the main part, the storyline is essentially reset every 40 minutes. Doesn’t sound so bad? Well it is.
It’s hard to feel that much emotion towards proceedings, as far too frequently does our emphasis change. One minute we’re focused on Ryan Gosling’s criminal Luke, eerily reminiscent of his famed ‘Drive’, role, the next Bradley Cooper’s cop character, then his son! It’s all a little bit too much, and you get the feeling that if the three parts were interwoven with one another, you’d get a more complete picture and a shorter one at that. At 2 hours and 20 minutes the running time is stodgy, and over-long.
However, ‘Pines‘, isn’t a total misstep for Cianfrance. He still provides a well-shot film that has consecutive shots, the emphasis on following a character around from behind a strong one, that is strange at first, but works over time. A great performances from Bradley Cooper in particular helps, with his character not all that he first seems, a guy who flirts with good and evil. Gosling isn’t far behind, although you do wonder, when on earth is he going to play a role that differs from the strong, silent type? Support-wise, Eva Mendes was surprisingly capable as the subject of Gosling’s affections, and the mother of his child, Ray Liotta was a proper bad man, as ever and the affable Ben Mendelsohn furtherly cemented his reputation as Hollywood’s go-to-guy for ‘scummy’, grimey roles. For me, he is one of the most underrated actors around right now, having even starred in the ‘Dark Knight Rises’, last summer amongst others, he is making a big impression on me at the moment with everything I have seen from him.
Back to the film though, a mesh of the good, the bad and the ugly. That the camera shots were my favourite part of the film says it all, the story, whilst engrossing at times suffers from the aforementioned segmented structure, aswell as some slow pacing. What I did like though, was the character’s evolution over time, there was real character development, especially with Cooper’s cop, and whilst the last segment almost saw the film completely fall over, for me, it just about was held together by Dane DeHaan, of ‘Chronicle’, fame, who provided a solid anchor, and also hugely impressed me.
It’s really a strange film for me to say a lot about. There’s a fair amount to spoil, but at the same time nothing particularly abnormal or groundbreaking, just average discoveries. I think the fact we see a depiction of the ‘everyday’ lives of these characters means it is such a strange film to review, but at the same time the plot is massively contrived purely to fit in with what Cianfrance had in mind. The ending brought with it an empty sense, not many emotions were stirring, and I didn’t know exactly what to make of it, hence the stuttering review right now, but it’s a pretty cold movie really.
At the end of it all, ‘The Place Beyond the Pines’, is overly-long, with a hit and miss plot, a minimal, yet excellent soundtrack, peppered with performances that range from solid to excellent. I wouldn’t hurry to watch it again, but I do intend to give Cianfrance’s previous effort, ‘Blue Valentine’, a Ryan Gosling-starring vehicle, a go. Hopefully this was a one-off for me, but the more I think about ‘Pines’, the more I think, ‘What was the point in that?!’.