What movie was that...?

29 May 2013

The Place Beyond the Pines

directed by Derek Cianfrance

Watching a Derek Cianfrance movie is like watching a forest burn to cinders in slow motion. It’s tragic and wrenching, but somehow beautiful, mesmerizing. And, in its own bizarre way, pure. The same fascination with relational wreckage that Cianfrance explored in Blue Valentine provides the framework for his spectacular The Place Beyond the Pines, but the focus here is on families and, more specifically, father-son relationships. Ryan Gosling plays the shit out of Luke, a carnival motorcyclist who, after learning he has an infant son, turns to a life of crime to provide him with that which he never had. Bradley Cooper perfectly plays Avery, a good cop struggling with the ramifications of his actions. And let’s not forget that Eva Mendes is superb as Romina, mother of Luke’s son, Jason. In Place, the cyclical melody of tragedy loops like the barrel in a music box, with notes ringing out in disparate places, with various characters, but always with a fatalistic tone of despair. The people in Cianfrance’s world are all flawed, which to me makes them more real and, in turn, strengthens my connection to them. In a strange turn that almost betrays Cianfrance’s sensibilities as an artist, the actual good, loving fathers in Place (like Kofi, who is, for all intents and purposes, Jason’s real father) are pushed to the background. The same goes for Avery’s dad (played by Harris Yulin), a loving father sidelined by the narrative’s pre-occupation with selfish, struggling men. Perhaps this is telling of how Cianfrance sees the world, or himself. Interesting...
In many ways, The Place Beyond the Pines reminded me of the excellent documentary October Country, another film that attempts to uncover the melancholy truth beneath family dysfunction. Hats off to Mike Patton, musical mad genius responsible for the film’s stellar score, and a big bravo to both young men who played the damaged sons of such flawed men. Emory Cohen and Dane DeHaan, you two have bright futures ahead of you and I cannot wait to watch the magic. Ben Mendelsohn, Ray Liotta, you two were reliably fantastic as well. Not a fun movie, but an important one all the same, The Place Beyond the Pines is definitely a film that will affect you. 

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