June 2, 2013

The Place Beyond the Pines

Derek Cianfrance, 2013

          Luke is a motorcycle stunt rider who performs with a traveling carnival group. When he returns to Schenectady a year after hooking up with one the locals, Romina (Eva Mendes), he suddenly finds a reason to stay there. He soon realizes that he's not very equipped to make living there nor is Romina very inviting. He turns to crime to make a quick dollar, soon finding himself in the cross-hairs of rookie cop Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper).
          While Blue Valentine was saturated with melodrama, Cianfrance tones it down here to a digestible, sufficient level. Though he does play on familiar themes of relationships overlapping each other, difficulty of maintaining love. Monetary struggles. He also broadens the spectrum of a love drama by adding issues of heredity and predisposed personality traits. He is sharp in examining relationships from a realistic perspective, studying the not-much-explored gray areas. Love is not always conveniently timed, and its not unusual for relationships to overlap one another or for exes to resurface without an invitation. Cianfrance makes many bold moves in this film. Making a drastic turn halfway through the movie is ballsy, let alone some of the shifts in time.
          I don't agree with the comparisons that have been made to Drive. I think it minimizes Cianfrance's efforts here, and that shouldn't be done. Yes, Gosling is a stunt rider like Drive. Yes, he does that very Goslingy thing where he leans up against a wall looking cool. This time its a cigarette in his mouth, and not a toothpick. His character in Pines has more depth, more history. He's been through one hell of a life. The many tattoos are like chapters. He didn't live with the world's greatest father growing up, or hardly lived with any father. He is sensitive to people's condescending tone with him (ie. when Romina is talking to him in the diner). Upon hearing that he has a son he has the immediate reaction to be present in his life and the intention to be a provider, presumably not wanting to make the same mistakes his father made. 
          There seems to be some maturity seen from Cianfrance from his last effort. The pacing is effective, and never drags on. The use of sound was present but not overpowering. He let the scenes breathe a bit. For example, when introducing you to Robin (Ben Mendelsohn), he didn't just have him run into Luke at a gas station. He did a pan shot of him watching Luke race through the woods on the motorcycle. It gave you a feeling of uncertainty, uneasiness. Mendelsohn, a perfect pick for that role, is an impressive character actor. Interested in seeing more of him in future roles.
          The climax of the film was already very satisfying, and then the Bon Iver song "The Wolves (Act II & II)" played as the credits roll which pulled on my heart-strings. I would imagine there are people that will be critical of the last scene in the film. I found it to be imaginative and rewarding.

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