Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Place Beyond the Pines

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The Place Beyond the Pines is a showcase. A vehicle for up-and-comers, and great source material for it. Buzz-worthy director Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine) directs hot talents Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, and Eva Mendes in this emotional triad of vignetts about a tatted motorcycle stunt rider who discovers he has a baby boy. ★★Gosling's young and struggling biker, broken and inspired by his own relationship with his father, Luke, resorts to bank robbing to support his infant son financially. But his skilled riding can only keep him successfully running from the cops for so long. This first vignette ends tragically--just as the adrenaline begins to course through the film's vein--and we are introduced the to segue that is Bradley Cooper's guilt-ridden rookie cop, Avery.

Officer Avery is, appropriately, the father of a young boy. His father is a recently retired judge insistent on Avery steering his career away from the dangerous cop lifestyle and into a life of politics, more apropos for Avery's law degree. After Avery's deadly encounter with Luke he can't remember things quite clearly. He slips into depression and is dragged into the underhanded dealings of his fellow cops, whose skipper is the always-gripping, nauseatingly intimidating Ray Liotta. But Avery's conscience forces him to reveal the vague coke- and prostitution-addled police scandal. Avery realizes his time as a cop is over, and at the behest of his father seeks a life as a politician, with cut-throat, suit-and-tie prudence. And the second vignette ends just as it becomes a dark and engrossing political thriller.

So begins the third vignette, in which we find Avery divorced and taking in his troubled teenage, thug-of-a-son. Avery is campaigning to be District Attorney of New York. But his son A.J., sporting a confusing, thick Long Island cadence, is obviously starved for loving attention from his busy father. A.J. becomes embroiled in drugs, fights, and alcohol with none other than fellow student Jason--bike rider Luke's lost, demure son who is sheltered from his father's past. Avery's past has come back to haunt him when Jason discovers the tragedy his father suffered at the hands of his friend's father. And the final vignette ends, not with a bang, but with a soft, directionless sigh.

The Place Beyond the Pines is three riveting stories that go no place special. The first act is an emotional thrill-ride; the second act--an emotional crime thriller; the final act--an emotional mystery/revenge melodrama. All three stories are compelling, though all three end with an ellipse, leaving room for more--but that room remains vacant. The performances--most notably Eva Mendes as Ryan Gosling's baby mama--are worthy of the praise they have received. And Cianfrance improves on his uninteresting, dawdling Blue Valentine, but fails to punctuate his three otherwise masterfully crafted vignettes appropriately. The Place Beyond the Pines is evidence that Cianfrance is a young talent who will make great films. And his actors solidify their talents as truly mature performers that have a lot to offer a willing audience. Ultimately, though, Pines goes beyond its stories, disappearing from sight, without farewell.

About the Author

Ian Tilman Nichols

Author & Editor

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