The Place Beyond The Pines

Director    Derek Cianfrance
Starring    Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Ray Liotta, Rose Byrne, Dane DeHaan, Bruce Greenwood, Ben Mendelsohn
Release    29 MAR (US) 12 APR (UK)
4 stars


8th April 2013

One of the conditions of me joining The Shiznit after closing down my own unbelievably popular and hilarious film blog was that I would become the site's Gosling Correspondent: any and all Ryan Goslingness would have to pass through me before it made it onto the internet. The rest of the team made a bit of a fuss, but when I took my shirt off to reveal my full chest tattoo of Ryan's face, they soon agreed to all my demands. Turns out I didn't need to take my trousers and pants off as well, but still, in for a penny, in for a pound.

After a bleak, Goslingless 2012, it's a joy to once again find ourselves in a year with no fewer than four RyGo films slated for release. It all started a bit wobbly with Gangster Squad (Matt liked it but he's an idiot), but I'm pleased to report that 2013 is back on track with The Place Beyond The Pines, a superior drama from Gozzer's Blue Valentine director (and doppelgänger), Derek Cianfrance.

Gosling and Cianfrance: Never in the same place at the same time. Except in this picture.

Women, gay men and those of us who are rendered uncertain by R-Gos will be delighted by his entrance in this film: the first we see of him is his washboard torso, caked in tattoos. He pulls on a leather jacket and a long, unbroken, handheld shot follows him through a carnival and into a tent, where he straddles a motorbike and appears (either via some excellent movie trickery, or he really is some kind of god) to execute some phenomenally dangerous stunt-riding. It feels like a cheeky nod to his Drive character, but "Handsome" Luke Glanton isn't quite the real hero; he is, however, a real human being. A man of limited means making a pittance doing the only thing he knows, Luke is well-meaning but ultimately self-destructive, and when he discovers that he's Eva Mendes' babydaddy he's about as equipped to deal with it as I am to breast feed.

Turning to crime to help support his newly-discovered offspring eventually, and inevitably, causes Luke to cross paths with cop Avery Cross, played by Bradley Cooper because apparently it's BOGOF day on Hollywood's sexiest men. Cross has problems of his own: a wife who doesn't relish the thought of him risking his life every day and colleagues who are as bent as Futurama's Bender on a lengthy drinking session with footballer Darren Bent. In another delicious piece of casting, Avery's father is a Supreme Court Judge played by Harris Yulin, who played Judge Stephen Wexler in Ghostbusters II. I'm fairly sure this is the greatest crossover movie character ever.

Scoleri Brothers just out of shot

Luke and Avery's lives collide in unexpected ways, and the fallout of their relationship echoes throughout the film in a manner which it would be wrong to divulge here. But in a film of three distinct acts, the principal characters all make crucial choices that skew the direction of their lives forever. "The place beyond the pines" is the rough translation of the film's setting's Mohawk name (Schenectady, New York), and at some point each major character visits that place and comes away a different man. In a story about fate and destiny, Cianfrance ensures that his characters - and audience - know that one decision can, for good or ill, reverberate through generations.

Everyone in The Place Beyond The Pines is on tremendous form. There's a reason Ryan Gosling is worshipped so heavily round these parts, and it's not just because he's, like, so dreamy. He's utterly convincing as a hopeless bum, and his ill-advised friendship with bank robber Ben Mendelsohn ("not since Hall and Oates has there been such a team") is grounded in genuine affection and a brotherhood of desperation. But because he's Ryan Gosling, he's impossible not to like, and it's essential for the film's success that we identify with him despite his evident nobbery.

Evident nobbery just out of shot

Meanwhile Cooper, in a multilayered role, continues to prove that he's easily in Gosling's class, and on this evidence will be collecting an acting Oscar within the next five years, while Eva Mendes avoids all the clichés with which her part could have saddled her. And young tragedies-in-waiting Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen hold their own in the company of Ray Liotta doing that sleazy cop thing he does best.

Subtle and unusual, The Place Beyond The Pines is a worthy follow-up to Blue Valentine, even if Cianfrance's assured direction isn't quite carried through to the edit: the final act is slightly less engaging than the rest of the film, and is where the overlong running time becomes most noticeable. That said, by the time it's all over, its circle-of-life plot will have you itching to return to the beginning and go through it all again as soon as possible.

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