Combustible Celluloid
Search for Posters
Own it:
Search for streaming:
NetflixHuluGoogle PlayGooglePlayCan I
With: Ryan Gosling, Eva Mendes, Ben Mendelsohn, Bradley Cooper, Rose Byrne, Bruce Greenwood, Ray Liotta, Emory Cohen, Dane DeHaan
Written by: Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio, Darius Marder
Directed by: Derek Cianfrance
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout, some violence, teen drug and alcohol use, and a sexual reference
Running Time: 140
Date: 05/04/2013

The Place Beyond the Pines (2013)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Vital 'Pines'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

With his excellent Blue Valentine, writer/director Derek Cianfrance explored a husband-wife relationship with astounding depth by flipping back and forth between two time periods: the beginning and the end of the relationship.

His new The Place Beyond the Pines is quite a bit more ambitious, now spanning a great deal more time and involving three narrative chunks that tie together one story. Yet it employs the same patient observation, a dedication to realism, but with a uniquely cinematic view.

The first segment focuses on motorcycle stunt rider Luke (Ryan Gosling), who is separated from his significant other (Eva Mendes) but misses the infant son he had with her. With the help of a grungy mechanic (Ben Mendelsohn), he begins robbing banks to help support them. During a gripping chase sequence, we meet young cop Avery (Bradley Cooper), who -- after slightly fudging the facts -- becomes a hero. The third segment involves the grown, teenage sons of both men.

Cianfrance handles these large leaps in time with grace; he doesn't seem to leave anything out. His camera lingers generously over small moments so that no character gets lost in time. He's also aware of space and location, and each place that the characters occupy at any moment resonates, none more than the "pines" of the title. (The movie takes place in Schenectady, New York, which roughly translates to "the place beyond the pines.")

Going into the movie without knowing much about it, it can be something of a shock to see Gosling disappear after such a short time, and indeed, it's difficult to sustain the long 2 hours and 20 minutes of this movie with these disappearing characters. The final stretch of the movie hinges on two newcomers, Emory Cohen as "AJ" and Dane DeHaan "Jason," and they are both fine. They both seem to come from a real place rather than a high-class acting school in Beverly Hills. Yet their inexperience -- and our unfamiliarity with them -- makes the film seem long as it gets to the final stretch.

The good news is that Gosling has rarely been better, and Cooper has never been better. He barely even looks like himself. Through some simple tricks of hairstyling and carriage, he seems like a regular Joe, rather than the most handsome man in Hollywood. (Most people I spoke do agreed: he's unrecognizable for several minutes.) Mendelsohn and the rest of the veteran cast provide able support.

Cianfrance clearly feels this material deeply, which is what makes it work, and I definitely appreciate the time the movie takes to breathe and explore. Ultimately the pacing keeps it from being a great movie, but it's certainly a good one.