The Place Beyond the Pines
Written by Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio and Darius Marder
Directed and Derek Cianfrance
The first publicity stills for Ryan Gosling’s new vehicle (sorry) The Place Beyond the Pines worried me because just like everyone, I thought that the teardrop tattoo and the bleached hair has temporarily ruined Gosling the male ideal. This look was even worse than the two movies where he looked like Jason Lee – those movies being Lars and the Real Girl and Blue Valentine. But he surprisingly never looked better, his face glowing and more symmetrical. Gosling’s character, Luke Glanton, dominates the first act of this triptych. His performance is captured by most suitable hands, with director Derek Cianfrance’s lo-fi aesthetic combined with cinematographer Sean Bobbitt’s fluorescent, brutal artistry. Mike Patton’s haunting Lynchian score also enforces this aura that Luke is this impossible phantom, a character more important that Luke himself realizes.
Luke is a motorcycle stuntman famous within the circus crowd. He discovers that he has a child with a Cuban-American Schenectady native named Romina (Mendes). At first pride sets in but instead of regular employable skills, one of his colleagues (Mendelsohn) suggests that his abilities has the makings with that of a bank robber. Gosling’s finest moments are in these scenes, his voice squeaking to suggest that he’s not perfect at this gig. The movie also promises this crime to affect generations and that it does.
For some of the audience who are looking for more facets in this story, we can chew and bite on its depiction of Luke’s family as well as Avery Cross (Cooper), the man who has to stop Luke’s robbing spree. Families, after all, seems to be the theme of choice for Cianfrance, who is becoming one of our generation’s prominent tragedists. His earlier movie Blue Valentine portrays a rocky marriage. This new movie, however, uses a bigger canvas to show more elements that help families break apart.
Luke’s family is a diverse one, with Romina married to a man named Kofi, Romina bearing two children from different fathers. On the other hand, Avery deals with his ex-politician father, a wayward son named AJ (Cohen, the movie’s second MVP) and a wife named Jennifer (Byrne) who wants him to quit the force after the catastrophic fallout of his involvement with Luke’s case. Cianfrance’s delicate wisdom in co-writing this script is clear by showing both the families’ diversity and dysfunction without necessarily showing the connections within both.
That said, as thrilling and magnificently shot as Gosling and his scenes are, I feel like I’m the only crazy person who thinks that Cianfrance sets Luke’s story arc in stone. While watching the movie, my questions instead were about the other two sections of this triptych. What will Avery do after the fallout of Luke’s case? What kind of relationship will AJ have with another boy named Jason (DeHaan), the latter having his own past to deal with? I’m thus more interested in the slow burn of the other two sections because anything can happen in those scenes, those scenes belong to one heart-pumping movie.
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