The Place Beyond the Pines (2013)

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Directed by: Derek Cianfrance
Written by: Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio, Darius Marder
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Eva Mendes, Bradley Cooper, Ben Mendelsohn, Mahershala Ali, Rose Byrne, Gabe Fazio, Bruce Greenwood, Ray Liotta, Emory Cohen and Dane DeHaan

Is Ryan Gosling as good as we think he is or does he just manage to get his hands on the best scripts?  Yet again, the young star hits it out of the park. Derek Cianfrance’s second feature tells a meandering story about the devastating impact of a motorcycle stuntman’s decision to rob banks in order to provide for his young son.  The story studies four main characters over two generations and while at times I had to reorient myself, once I found my bearings I was engrossed.

What I liked: There is something truly magical about these characters.  What makes this movie memorable is the choices the characters make and while we may not always understand these choices, we do understand what motivates them, which is not only engaging but poetic, if disturbing.   What I find so exceptional about Gosling’s performance is the depth of character he continues to bring to each new role, and there have been many in the last couple of years.  It is astounding how he manages to create a unique sense of character in every project he undertakes.   Finally, Cianfrance’s plot is riveting because it surprises.  It is refreshing to find a movie that deviates from expectations without disappointing its audience and I commend his effort for the movie’s realism, power and causality.

What I didn’t like:  Unlike Cianfrance’s last film, “Blue Valentine,” whose scope was narrowed to one day in the life of two people, “The Place Beyond the Pines” feels like such a panoramic view that my emotional connection to the characters was somewhat diluted.  I feel this is the fault of the movie’s broad strokes, more so than the performances, because my eyes were glued to character after character wondering what each would do next.  While others have commended the transitions from one story line to the next, I felt the transitions quite jarring and I sometimes felt I was watching three movies in one.  However, as I mentioned above, once I reoriented myself, I was wholly engaged.

My rating: Cianfrance is an auteur.

IMDB: 7.7

Rotten Tomatoes: 81%

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