A Place Beyond The Pines : Film Review

place beyond pines

You can’t escape your legacy. No matter what you do, you are doomed to reap what was sown by your fathers. That’s the overall message of the depressing “A Place Beyond the Pines”, where the bad choices of cops and robbers come back to bite them in the bum.

Director Derek Cianfrance of “Blue Valentine”, once again makes great use of Ryan Gosling who plays Luke–the epitome of the cool carny. In a wonderful, single take, opening tracking shot, we follow Luke–donning a leather jacket over his ripped, heavily tattooed body as he strolls toward the circus big top. Gosling exudes charisma as a daredevil motorcycle rider who is currently in Schenectady with a traveling circus.

Things change when a haggard looking Romina (Eva Mendes) appears during one of Luke’s post-show autographing sessions. They had a fling when the circus was in town last year and he offers her a ride back home. Apparently that’s all she wants– she’s moved on and has a “new man”. When Luke stops in to see her again before the circus shoves off, he finds out that the baby boy in Grandma’s arms is his.

Inexplicably stricken with new responsibility (isn’t this an occupational hazard for carnys?), Luke gives up his circus gig to try to win back his girl and his baby. He moves in with a deadbeat mechanic (Ben Mendelsohn) who convinces him of the easy money to be made robbing banks.

Naturally, Luke is ready for a piece of the action. The circus is gone and he has a mouth to feed doesn’t he? Still with us? The stupidity continues unabated.
Unfortunately, this is the best part of the film. For we are soon “treated” to two more vastly inferior stories. The first is of college grad cop, Avery (Bradley Cooper) who has a baby boy of his own and whose path crosses with Luke’s. Avery then finds himself dealing with the corruption on the police force when a squad of bad apples (led by Ray Liotta) start forcing him to do cliché,“bad cop” things. The result is predictable and boring.

The third narrative in this overlong melodrama takes place 15 years later as the sons of Avery and Luke implausibly meet in high school, only to deal with the demons in their past, or the “sins of the fathers” if you will. If absolute stupidity in life choices is somehow supposed to endear us to these characters, Cianfrance fails miserably. In fact, they are stupid beyond credulity. I mean can you believe for a second that the clean cut, college educated son of a supreme court judge (Avery) has a son who talks and acts like a ghetto hood? No? Neither could I.

If you have teenage sons, don’t see this movie; your palms will itch with the desire to slap someone, as you observe the sheer inanity of these characters. Cianfrance certainly has taken on too much with these three stories. He would have been much better off, dealing with the first story line alone. Unfortunately the promise of the opening narrative dissipates quickly and we are left with an unconvincing melodrama of foolish choices and regrets, that is surprisingly banal.

The photography is wonderful and the actors perform admirably but not even Gosling can save the cloddish script written by Cianfrance, Ben Coccio and Darius Marder–whose pessimistic view of humanity is neither original, nor is its presentation inspired.

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