The Place Beyond The Pines

7 Overall Score
Casting: 8/10
Plot: 6/10
Appeal: 7/10

Multiple emotionally-wrought stories are powered by magnificent performances.

The story is overly diluted, and the film's overall vision lacks balance and tightness.

The Place Beyond The Pines is an odd movie. Now, I don’t say that because it’s weird, or quirky, or full of strange characters. I say that because not only was it drastically different than I had expected after watching the trailer, but it tended to surprise me at every corner. In some ways, this is a great thing. This film absolutely demolished the wall of expectations I had for it. However, in some ways, this movie also loses itself due to its multi-generational, multi-perceptual set-up, and this also opens the door for multiple nagging flaws and plot holes.

To say I’m a huge Ryan Gosling fan would be an understatement. Okay, I pretty much have a man crush on the guy. In The Place Beyond The Pines, Derek Cianfrance’s follow-up to 2010’s Blue Valentine (which also starred Gosling), we get to see a world much larger and much more intense. Like Valentine‘s fuel of emotional highs and lows, Pines is driven by its emotions also, and in this offering, the film’s content intertwines abrasive action and drama with struggles with family, friends, and co-workers, the effects of the past, and the questioning of moral and social values. Gosling plays Luke Glanton: a blonde-haired, tattooed motorcyclist who works for a traveling carnival. After finding out that he had a baby boy out of wedlock with a woman (Eva Mendes) in Schenectady, New York, it becomes his obligation to support him. So, with his great skill set and his financial needs, Glanton becomes a bank robber. While this makes for a compelling story, Pines instead cuts itself into three sections with Glanton’s death nearly an hour into its runtime.

The Place Beyond The Pines - Screenshot 1The divide is what got me. The downside of Glanton’s story ending so quickly is that Gosling gets much less screentime than he deserves. But that leads to a great upside, as we get to see the the second section of the film from the perspective of an on-duty cop named Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper). In addition to Gosling, I’m a big fan of Cooper, and the two of them dominate the film with incredible acting and immense vulnerability. Gosling’s character deals with his struggling relationship with Mendes while supporting his son, and after being killed by Cross, we see Cooper’s character struggle to cope with what he had done – not to mention that members of his police force are breaking the law left and right. The third section is seen through the eyes of Glanton’s son, Jason (Dane DeHaan). Multiple parallels come into play as Jason befriends Cross’ son at school without knowledge that Cross’s father killed his father. What a coincidence, right? We then see Jason’s struggle, which develops when he finds out the truth about his father’s death.

The plot seems very determined and extremely aspirational, but as you can see by the large amount of sub-stories, it’s a bit overwhelming. I’d rather watch a film entirely about Gosling or entirely about Cooper. Not both. The third section of the movie felt a bit unnecessary, and it drags on as the movie turns into a high school drama gone wrong. I respect Cianfrance’s huge vision, but it takes great execution for movies like Pines to work – and at times, the execution just isn’t there. Sometimes the emotions glisten and the script excels, but for much of the film, I found myself a tad uninterested. Climaxes burst in and out at random times, demonstrating a lack of balance that prevents Pines from shining as a whole. Sometimes films can outrun their flaws by keeping the viewer’s focus on the characters and overall vibe. This film doesn’t always do that.

PLACE BEYOND THE PINESThat being said, I love the fact that Cianfrance is so gutsy with his presentation. He’s not afraid to make turns where other directors might restrain themselves. The film’s fast-paced chase scenes and dramatized action keep the blood boiling, and although I wished to see more from Gosling, what I got to see from Cooper and DeHaan was astounding in its own right. The three actors give reputable performances, with Gosling’s performance in the first act sticking out as does the act as a whole. Cooper hasn’t been this good since Silver Linings Playbook, which, sadly, would mean more if the film had come out five years ago and not last year.

While the three stories are led by great performances, the supporting cast feels a bit meaningless at times. Mendes’ character comes off as contradictive, as she is suddenly stricken with sadness over Glanton’s death after falling in love and raising her child with another man. Other moments, like the death of Cross’ father, disrupt the flow of the film. In addition, the uneven exposition and story development leads the viewer wondering what exactly the movie is trying to get across. There are some deep themes to play with, and Pines doesn’t take long enough to examine one before moving to another. However, the story is excellent in its own right, and the movie should be enjoyed for that reason.

The Place Beyond The Pines is an adventure. Through its three interconnected stories, we get to see the emotional conflicts of multiple characters as the events of their past affect the course of their future and both their attitudes and mentalities as people. Seeing all of the momentum bubble up to the final resolution was a thrill in its own. It would’ve been even greater if the resolution went out with a bang and not a fizzle. Although I have tons of complaints about this film, the pros outweigh the cons, and the pros are found in the powerful performances of Gosling, Cooper, and DeHaan. If anything, Cianfrance has proved his worth as a writer and director with his second film output. With such an immense vision in hand, he executes with well-written characters and – for the most part – engaging story elements. If the story elements were more balanced and the movie’s focus wasn’t so diluted and its thematic examinations not so scrambled, Pines would’ve been an amazing film. Instead, it settles as a pretty good one.

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Author: Tim Dodderidge View all posts by
I'm a student at the University of Kansas hoping to major in journalism. I love Christopher Nolan films, eating at Taco Bell, and playing indoor soccer. I also like to watch How I Met Your Mother and enjoy writing poetry.

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