Saturday, May 04, 2013

"The Place Beyond the Pines" (2013) - Movie Review

Derek Cianfrance’s “The Place Beyond the Pines” achieves success halfway in its duration and then over reaches for ambitious profundity that might have worked against an otherwise thematic portrait about the deep bond between fathers and their sons. Coming back after his most depressive and saddest film I have seen “Blue Valentine” this is a breath of fresh air taken for shift in the genre.

Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling) is a man with penchant for tattoos that is self evident and has the dexterity in handling the motorcycles he rides. A stunt performer in state fairs, he is a wanderer. In one of his stops, he comes to learn that he is a father as a result of a fling a year back with Romina (Eva Mendes). His fatherly instincts for good or worse kicks in. He quits his job and becomes single minded in injecting himself to the lives of his son Jason and Romina. Gosling’s Luke resembles the unnamed Driver in “Drive” but Luke is more disturbed and short tempered than the calm and calculated Zen master in Nicolas Wending Refn’s film.

Romina has made a life with another man and she was still with him from what we could imply when she was with Luke. Her impulses are undefined which the film never addresses. She lives with Kofi (Mahershala Ali) and understandably objects the intrusion of Luke. Luke definitely has his way around in impressing Romina. His simple act of being there and beginning to discover the possibility of him in her and their son’s life is good enough for her.

Luke uncertain about his plans runs into the ever creepy Ben Mendelsohn as Robin. I always wonder how come a guy like Luke can act and exist the way he does but then I see Robin and Luke begins to become more real and present. There are actors who can quite consistently be typecasted and they prolifically provide multitude of characters in same plane with interesting flavours. Michael Shannon is one of those and Mendelsohn appear to have taken it. On one end he is the ever doozy Robin mesmerized by the driving skills of Luke. He appears to hire him just to hang out with him. Then we see the real intention of him. He recommends the bank robbery to use Luke’s skill. In his unstable devious existence, he is a pragmatic man. He knows when he needs to be out of the game. He is not devious as I say but simply sees it as a way of living. One you get away with something without bloodshed, your confidence only grows further.

The robbery sequences are done with the high octane energy without anything blowing up or being chased for eternity. It is quick and sudden as it would be in reality and becomes evident of the adrenaline in driving this. While money is the intent, for Luke and Robin, it is the rush. Money is just a bonus. Nevertheless, the survival comes in cash and they venture out successfully. Luke wants more which results in the crucial act of solo robbery going expectedly bad. This introduces to Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper) as the cop chasing down Luke.

The narration shifts to Avery at that point. Avery is the son of a judge (Harris Yulin) and is put on the spot light. That takes a turn of its own that gives Bradley Cooper sufficient amount to prove one more time that he is capable of handling himself in complex roles. Cianfrance film is the education in the paternity instinct that comes forth in us. As us adults act selfishly or unselfishly that results in the future and destiny of our offsprings. This is the job nobody have any clue of doing but are willing to go the length as it is quite crucial to leave the evidence of themselves and be judged by themselves for that. Not being a father, I can only draw distant judgments and conclusion but there is one thing that is clearer than a pristine stream of still water is the fact of how a child can change a man’s life in a dimension he never ever expected to have.

Cianfrance’s film is filled with mood and ambience. The rainy and flourishing vegetation of Schnectady, New York becomes the back ground. It goes through the town that does not carry the aesthetic sense of beauty the outskirts blooms. Unlike “Blue Valentine”, this film moves with consistent pace though that film required that to illustrate the demise of a marriage. Here it is about the psychological dilemma on the impulsive actions that has resulted in the consequences to be dealt with. There is Cooper’s Avery living with the encounter he had with Luke and the consequences of those along with his colleagues played by Ray Liotta. Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper come through for the role and provide those close up shots of emotional breakdowns. The film goes to the next generation to focus of Luke’s and Avery’s sons played by Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen who play as effectively as Gosling and Cooper. This supposed material that is aimed in having a deeper value to the already made stronger case for this heroic bond. The result becomes a much contrived connection. That dampens the foundation built by the better part of the film. Cianfrance’s intention and the aim for going further with the concept cannot be claimed as something he did not execute properly but it overextends and becomes something unfitting in the whole scheme of things. “The Place Beyond the Pines” is a film that is the kind of follow up I am happy to expect from Cianfrance as there needs this range in a talented director who is ready to explore it uncompromisingly.

2 comments: said...

It’s long, but rightfully so. For me, I just wanted more characters and stories to believe in. After awhile, it all seemed to have gotten lost. Good review.

Ashok said...

Thanks Dan. I do agree that the third part of the film seems unnecessary but over all I enjoyed it.