<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Derek Cianfrance. Starring Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Ray Liotta, Rose Byrne, Ben Mendelsohn, Dane DeHaan, Emory Cohen, Mahershala Ali, Harris Yulin
Another movie this week (the other being Oblivion) that may make you yawn a bit with its long and winded tale of fathers and sons, crime and police corruption, drugs and bang robberies and Ryan Gosling smoking a lot.
Yeah what’s with that anyway? Ryan Gosling seems to fit a stereotype in every movie. Those eyes that brood and say so much; a body that can be lethal as well as beautiful. Those lips that can dangle a cigarette bud masterfully while simultaneously moving to speak. The version we watched didn’t even bother with the mandatory censor warning ‘Smoking is injurious to health’ during a smoking scene. Thankfully!
Ryan plays Luke, a daredevil motorcycle rider in a circus who finds out his fling Romina (Eva Mendes) has his child and didn’t tell him about his son. In an effort to bring stability to his life and be more of a father to his son than his own dad was, he endeavours to woo Romina back from her new bf Kofi (Mahershala Ali) so he can spend more time with his son and her. This leads to unpredictable confrontations and a disturbing but true revelation that when a guy has money, the girl is ready to be with him. Of course, Luke is getting his money with the help of a dishevelled garage owner called Robin (Ben Mendelsohn) by robbing banks.
In steps Avery (Bradley Cooper), as a policeman who shoots Luke the bank robber and becomes a hero. But is he really?
So the first part of the film is about Luke, the middle part is about Avery and his departments corrupt cops – why they put that in, I have no idea – and the last part is about their respective grownup sons Jason (Dane DeHann) and AJ (Emory Cohen) and a tale of retribution and forgiveness.
Now director Derek Cianfrance has also done a movie called Blue Valentine, which I haven’t seen but that got rave reviews for the style of direction, camera work and melancholy soundtrack. And you can see how he has made this subject matter, that’s nothing new, into a somewhat stirring and evocative suspense drama. But in The Place Beyond The Pines there’s just too much material. It’s like where is he going with all this. Sure it’s well made and handled by someone who clearly is a fan of 80s nostalgia (some nice old songs in there like Dancing in the Dark).
The only things I’m left with after watching this film are Ryan Gosling’s troubled-tattooed Luke from the first third of the film, Dane DeHann’s performance as his son who just happens to meet the son of his father’s killer (yes, predictable) and the line by Jason’s step father Kofi when Jason asks about his real dad: “I am your father, you know it to be true, search your feelings…” taken from Star Wars. That was the only moment where I smiled in the film to give you an idea of how serious it is.
Also, you’ll notice a particularly haunting soundtrack in The Place Beyond The Pines. At points you’re wondering whether this movie will head in to the horror genre as the music eerily sets up a scene.
And what’s with making Eva Mendes’s character old and grey? The make-up is horrendous and doesn’t make sense since the other characters like Avery and her new hubby Kofi still look young and fit.
In a way this is a film that takes itself way too seriously, that tries to read more into situations that are pretty normal in Hollywood movies and American life in general and perhaps in doing so the filmmakers have squandered the opportunity to make a truly good film.