Review: The Place Beyond The Pines (TIFF 2012)
PLOT: Luke (Ryan Gosling) is a motorcycle rider, eking out a living doing stunt riding at travelling carnivals. When he learns that a waitress (Eva Mendes) he had a fling with a year ago bore him a son, he vows to take care of his new family, and in desperation turns to bank robbery. He crosses paths with Avery (Bradley Cooper)- an ambitious cop, sending their families onto a collision course that transcends generations.
REVIEW: THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES was one of the real mysteries of this year's TIFF. The sophomore effort from director Derek Cianfrance (BLUE VALENTINE), this is an ambitious, multi-generational crime epic that totally subverts audience expectations at every turn. The premise may sound like it has shades of DRIVE, but this is a totally different kind of movie.
More than anything, it's a showpiece for the three leads, Gosling, Cooper and, in arguably the film's finest performance, Dane DeHaan (CHRONICLE). Each actor anchors a different part, giving this the feel of an epic trilogy confined to one film. Running a lengthy, but never oppressive 150 minutes, PINES is a big movie made intimate by Cianfrance's technique. Imagine something like GODFATHER if it were directed by John Cassavettes and you'll have an inkling of what this is.
Ryan Gosling gives yet another tour de force performance, as the neer-do-well carny humbled, in an astonishingly acted scene, where he breaks into tears seeing his previously unknown son baptized. It's a raw performance, very much in the tradition of his work in BLUE VALENTINE. Once he starts robbing banks, Gosling's energy in these scenes, where he affects a desperate cold-bloodedness that starts to seep into his relationship with his family, and his partner-in-crime, played by Ben Mendelson is chilling.
Once we get to Cooper, the film switches gears, and becomes a somewhat more conventional story, delving into police corruption, which is a familiar genre trope (complete with Ray Liotta playing another vicious scumbag), but is deftly handled, and most importantly, sets up the dynamic final third of the film.
This section anchored by DeHaan, was- to me, the most intriguing part of the film, but also the one I can't go into too much, as it would ruin PINES' numerous twists and turns. But- De Haan's energy, beautifully complements Gosling's own conflicted performance, and just as importantly, contrasts with Cooper's canny, but ultimately moral one.
One of the scary things about PINES going out to distributors is that some may be tempted to cut the 150 minute running time, but God forbid, as the length is crucial. It's certainly a deliberately paced film, but this is important as it allows the audience to really see what makes each of the leads tick- to the point that once the inevitable collision happens between them, a sense of dread pervades the film.
To me, THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES is a really distinct jump from BLUE VALENTINE. While it's just as artful, and unconventional, it's also quite entertaining, in a way that BLUE VALENTINE perhaps wasn't. Hopefully it'll reach theatres intact, as to me this was a perfectly paced piece of work, and one that's quite striking. Count this one up as one of the fest's real sleeper hits. Hopefully mainstream audiences will feel the same.