This movie is a mess. But it’s a mess that I can admire. By the end it almost works. But there are too many problems in it for me and the other people I watched the film with absolutely hated it and wanted to turn it off part way through. But I persevered.
The Place Beyond the Pines explores the relationship between fathers and their sons. Luke (Ryan Gosling) is a criminal who tries to provide for his son by robbing banks. Avery (Bradley Cooper) on the other hand is a cop who does his best to follow the law and feels extreme guilt when he questions whether it is actually possible. Eva Mendes is also in the film and it is directed by David Cianfrance (Blue Valentine). What I enjoy about this film is it is willing to take risks. Spoiler alert. It is quite a shock when Luke dies from the shootout between himself and Avery. I was like, “did they really just kill off Ryan Gosling half way through?” Yes, they really did. The audience never sees him again except for in a picture that Avery finds. I also like that the film attempts to be profound and really explores the psychology of Avery. It’s too bad that all of the other characters feel two dimensional in comparison.
While I like that the film is trying to convey some deep, profound message this is also part of its failing. Because I didn’t really get this film. I don’t think. My opinion of it, and it may very well be extremely wrong, is that the film is about what it means to be a father and to be a man. Luke wants very strongly to be there for his son and to provide for him. He will go to any length to do so. But he is not a good father, no matter how much he wants to be. Robbing banks is not the way to go. Luke’s death is the best thing that could have happened to his son. This is very sad, but I think Luke’s son Jason (played phenomenally by Dane DeHaan) is ultimately better for it. He is a troubled, but ultimately good kid, who can make the tough decisions his father couldn’t. Avery is a good cop who fights corruption in the police force. He is physically present for his son, AJ (Emory Cohen), and provides for him materially what Luke could not for Jason. Yet AJ is a d-bag (Star-Lord’s words). Your typical, self-entitled, spoiled kid. On the surface he had a better upbringing and a better father, so what gives? I think that Avery feels so ashamed for having killed Luke, another little boy’s father, that he cannot face his son. Avery himself tells a therapist early on that he cannot stand to look at AJ. Avery fails both Jason and his own son. There, that’s my reading of the film.
Now to tear the film apart. The structure of The Place Beyond the Pines is extremely interesting. Too bad it doesn’t really work. First of all, the pace is so sluggish and the first half is boring. It should be exciting to see Ryan Gosling robbing banks. But the audience has at this point no idea what the film is about or where it is heading. It is so dull. Part of the problem is that I find Ryan Gosling incredibly unbelievable in the role (in a bad way). The whole time I felt like it was just Ryan with fake tattoos and a bleach blonde wig on. There is no development of his character, so the audience can’t care about him. I felt kind of sorry for him. But he is a fuck up from the beginning until his demise. Also, the boy cannot convincingly rob a bank. He screams like a girl. Normally I don’t like Eva Mendes, but I was pleasantly surprised by her here. Her character is pretty dumb, but the emotion was real and I really felt sorry for her.
The best part of the movie for me was Bradley Cooper. He does some excellent acting here, possibly his best ever. The best thing for the film was killing Ryan off and focusing on Bradley. Suddenly this dull film gets exciting. And then about 20 minutes later it is dull again. Dane DeHann makes it a interesting again near the very end, he really is a good actor. I absolutely hate the score in Pines. I found it distracting and jarring. Something more subtle would have greatly improved the film and the pace. Also how the hell can 15 years pass in the film, but other than the kids no one ages?!?!?!?! Shit, at least put some grey streaks in Bradley’s hair or something.
I feel like this movie has an interesting premise and had the potential to be good. But in the end it just falls apart. It is all over the place. It is also extremely dark and the few times it tries to throw in some humor it just falls flat. This is a really hard movie to sit through for the entire 2 hours and 20 minutes. But I think the performances of Bradley Cooper and Dane DeHaan almost make it worth it. Almost. I will never ever put myself through this movie again, that’s for sure. 5.5/10