There’s more to it than Ryan Gosling driving.
I was tricked into watching a film the other day. That film was called The Place Beyond the Pines. The poster portrayed the stoned faced Ryan Gosling, who appeared to advertise another motor vehicle-based action film starring another mute hero. The 2012 Nicolas Refn film is renowned for its gorgeous cinematography and soundtrack, and there was something so attractive in the awkward long pauses as Gosling quietly smirked at any challenge brought before him. In comparison, the beginning of The Place Beyond The Pines, directed by Derek Cianfrance, had Gosling all boonied up in tats and a raggedy shirt, which foretold of a grittier, more desperate rendition to his previous role. If you go into the film expecting a Drive clone, you’d be dead wrong.
Instead, the viewer is treated to another film that delivers similarly masterful visuals, along with a vulnerable, thoughtful story that vastly transcends the plot of Drive. The story unfolds as a compelling story of fatherhood, mixed with tense action scenes and jarring transitions. Only the presence of a few contrived characters and portentous elements at the back end hinder the film, inspiring the same frustration that Gosling’s tattered white shirt did in the face of the money that he makes.
Without giving too much away, Gosling plays a travelling carnie who is revellated to a site of his past and takes drastic, motorbike based actions in order to make right. This is the first act of three separate tales of the film. By the time the events for Gosling are resolved, you can’t help but enter into some kind of time warp. The length of the film are seriously messy, but the pacing stands solid. Where some may feel the film is rushed, the characters that Gosling meets all help to develop and endear his character to the viewer. At times, the horrid acts that the protagonist commits almost seem justified. By the time his character is resolved it feels like the film is over but it carries on nonetheless.
The harsh transition to Bradley Cooper’s character at first took me out of the film as any notions of a drive clone were expelled. But as Cooper’s life is explored we are reassured that the film’s tone, story and quality are preserved. A large part of the film’s message revolves around paternity which the contrast between Gosling and Cooper does well to exemplify. There are only a few moments when the director hits you over the head with his message, but the life of the green police officer in Schenectady, NY seems the most forced. His story in the second act ends up as inconsequential considering the stakes presented at the time. Cooper’s character instead personifies a caricatural “hero man” and appears weaker than our other lead.
The third act is where the film becomes cliché. The two teenage sons of the protagonists, being simple vessels for the repercussions of the films prior plots, lack proper development for their motivations. Double that with the length of the film, some could be frustrated for a satisfying conclusion. However, the circular ending of both characters riding their motorbikes is a nice touch.
The problems with the characters are completely down to the script. Every single actor brings their A-game. They all act believably and subtly, and you can feel the feelings of conflict and exasperation dripping out at the seams. Even in the third act, where the story lets them down, Emory Cohen and Dane Dehaan give such a realism to their highschool personas that they should be given credit. Eva Mendes is absolutely heartbreaking.
Ultimately, if you just wanted another action flick with a smooth soundtrack and hardy protagonist, you’ll be disappointed. Gosling’s character, especially in the scene where things start to fall apart, is vastly more endearing. Rather, it is a film for those that like to see the quality of a book without the dialogue that would bring down a film. The story feels more episodic than cinematic, which isn’t a bad thing. If you want to watch a good crime drama along the lines of Roskam’s The Drop or you enjoyed Blue Valentine, you’ll really enjoy it.