I went to go see “The Place Beyond the Pines” last night and despite many negative reviews I really like it. Even thought it was 2 hours and 20 minutes long(!), it has a really interesting story and great performances.
Warning: This review contains spoilers
Here are #5Takeaways from “A Place Beyond the Pines:’
1. The narrative is really crazy and really interesting
Even though the first hour of the movie could probably condensed to a half an hour, it is still fun to see Gosling and Cooper do work. We meet Gosling as Luke Glanton, a stunt motorcycle driver who seems to be going throughout life with no purpose. After one of his shows, he meets up with “former flame,” (the audience guesses) Romina (Eva Mendes). After driving her home and milling throughout the small town for a couple of days, he learns Romina gave birth to his son. Romina never told him, and Luke decided to quit his job and try to support his family.
This does not go well. Luke tries to live a clandestine life, but quickly falls into robbing banks with another guy who runs an auto shop. He begins to earn money which he gives to Romina (even though she is living in another man’s house). One day while assembling a crib without Romina’s knowledge, Romina and Kofi (her boyfriend) return home. Kofi demands him to leave, but Luke cold cocks him in the face. Luke is arrested for assault and Romina does not want to see him. Upset, Luke robs more banks until he is pursued by the cops and ends up getting shot by Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper).
Then the story switches to Cross. Although he is a “hero,” life does not change much for him. Cross’ father is a well-known judge in town and even though Cross went to law school, he decided to be a cop instead. Cross quickly gets involved in some dirty cops, and at a moment of weakness (or intelligence) rats on his fellow policemen.
We then fast forward fifteen years later.
2. History always catches up with us
Some time has passed and we re enter the story at Cross’ fathers funeral. We see his son grown, but soon realize he is divorced, running for attorney general and his son is having problems. He ex-wife asks if his son can life with him and Cross says yes hesitantly. At A.J.’s new school he meets another troubled kid named Jason, Romina and Luke’s son. They become quick friends smoking pot afterschool and eventually buying ecstasy.
After they buy, they are both arrested. A.J. gets off of course and even though Jason is facing five to fifteen years in jail, Cross pulls some strings and gets Jason off with a misdemeanor. Cross tells A.J. not to talk to Jason ever again. There are two reasons for why he says this, one, Cross does not want Jason to figure out that he killed his father and also that he wants Jason to not get mixed up with his fucked up son again. They both hang out again and Jason realizes who Cross his. He comes into Cross’ house, gives A.J. a concussion and then takes Cross out to the forest with a gun. Cross kneels asking where his son is, and then finally says, “I’m sorry.” Jason runs away, taking Cross’ wallet and finds a photo Luke, his mother and himself as a baby. Jason buys a motorcycle and runs away, while Cross wins the election and has his son at his side.
3. The supporting performances are tremendous.
The film is extremely well cast. While Gosling and Cooper are tremendous, the two kids are really good actors. A.J. is great at playing the kid who feels entitled to everything, but still takes drugs because he is depressed. The actor who plays Jason, not only looks like Gosling, but totally gets it. He needs to play the role as this “loser” who will do anything A.J. says. And then you have Ray Liotta. Damn is he creepy. I don’t why he doesn’t get more roles. He was so good in Goodfellas, that he is now typecast in similar roles. In this film he plays the head of the crooked cops. He is able to play that likable yet scary presence you need to bow down to.
Ben Mendelsohn plays Luke’s co-conspirator in the bank robberies and he’s excellent as well. He seems kind of stupid at the beginning and I thought he was actually gay, but he figures to be loner. There is one scene in particular where the two of them are dancing to “Dancing in the Dark” by Bruce Springsteen after their first successful which really funny.
4. It is ultimately a story about fathers and sons.
The themes of the film are clearly about trying to be a good father for someone while balancing be a good son. You see Luke who talks about not having a father figure at all, he tries so hard to support his son in a legitimate way, but in the ends falls back on probably what his father did, crime. Just before the Cross breaks into an upstairs room to shoot Glanton, he calls Romina and tells her, “don’t tell him about me,” meaning he doesn’t want Jason to know that his father was a criminal.
On the other side you have Cross who is trying to be a good guy and pro-active in the community as a policeman. He didn’t want to be a judge like his father (even though he went to law school) because he feels that likes taking the easy way out. Instead of doling out justice from the bench, he wants to do it on the streets. When you meet Glanton and Cross’ sons in the future their roles are almost reversed. A.J. is a total fuck up who does a lot of drugs. Cross is too busy with his campaign to really deal with his son, while Jason is happy-go-lucky. Sure he smokes pot occasionally, but at least his “parents” are still together. It takes Jason almost Cross to realize that he needs to be their more from his son.
5. The movie is beautiful
At the beginning of the film, you don’t immediately realize it’s taking place somewhere in the late 80s or early 90s. The entire film is shot on location in Schenectady, NY (a Mohawk word for a “The Place Beyond the Pines” and the setting is beautiful. There is a lot of shots in the forest and surrounding landscape. I actually thought it was in Northwest originally, not near Albany.
The music is awesome as well and the mood is weird. The setting almost feels disconnected from the rest of the world, like these people are just living by themselves.
In the end, I really like the film and the performances. It’s just the way the choose to intermingle Gosling’s and Cooper’s story could have been really cut down. Good movie to watch at home on your pace on a rainy day. I give the film a B grade.