In director Derek Cianfrance's previous feature,
Now, however, Cianfrance has stepped up with
The reviews have been a little sniffy thus far, as the film has traveled from the festival circuit into limited theatrical release. The best course of action is to see it, then figure out what does or doesn't work for you in its tales of sons, fathers, moral compromise and the harsh, beautiful business of living.
Describe some of co-writer and director Cianfrance's narrative details, and "The Place Beyond the Pines," like its title, sounds a tad grandiose. Gosling plays Luke, a motorcycle stunt performer traveling with a two-bit carnival. Coming through Schenectady, N.Y., on his annual tour, he learns he has fathered a son with a local waitress (
Pulling a page from the Billy Bigelow "Carousel" playbook, Luke turns to bank robbery at the behest of his pal Robin (
I love how "The Place Beyond the Pines" hands off from the criminal to the law enforcement officer. I love also how, in a daring "15 years later" leap forward, it becomes a story of the male teenage offspring of the troubled men played by Gosling and Cooper. There's an encompassing sense of destiny guiding the events of Cianfrance's movie, but the people in it really do seem like people, not pieces of plot.
Separately, the components of "Pines" are familiar:
Its final third putters a bit. 140 minutes doesn't feel indulgent, exactly, just occasionally slack. But it's not enough to lessen the achievement. Sean Bobbitt's cinematography refuses to glamorize these people or the places they inhabit; in the same vein, editors Jim Helton and Ron Patane and composer Mike Patton keep the momentum flowing subtly. You watch what happens, often dreading the worst. Even when the worst comes, though, it comes with honor and a kind of grace.