By: Oberst Von Berauscht (A Toast) –
Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling) is a motorcycle stunt performer in a traveling carnival. He discovers one day that a one night stand of his produced a child, and resolves to provide for the baby. The mother (Eva Mendes) has long since moved on with her life, with a boyfriend who is taking to fatherly duties quite well. Desperate to make a difference in the boy’s live, Luke turns to robbing banks with his friend Robin (Ben Mendelsohn). His actions have a dramatic impact on this family unit, as well as those of Police Officer Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper), and his wife and child as well.
The synopsis above took longer for me to put together than any other I’ve written. This is a film which is best experienced with as little knowledge of the story as possible, and so I attempted to write it in such a way that would satisfy this requirement.
Or in this case, the less…
The Place Beyond the Pines is without a doubt a unique approach to the genre it is placed in, with an story that spans 15 years and two generations. Crime/Dramas rarely have such an epic scope, or if they do, they usually are part of a far larger story. The last film by director Derek Cianfrance, 2010’s Blue Valentine contrasted the storybook beginnings of a relationship with the nuclear disaster that it would become. The principal relationship in this film has no such storybook start, instead opening on a relationship long since past, and following it through the path of the fallout. This is the kind of fallout that has impacts radiating across generations of family, contaminating anyone close enough to ground zero.
As opposed to the kind that eats Tokyo
In some ways, Ryan Gosling’s character almost feels designed like an unofficial reprisal of his character from Drive. Both characters are experienced gear-heads and criminals, both feeling deeply conflicted about their path in life, and both in a situation where they are intruding on an established father-figure’s role. It is nevertheless a fascinating character, in either iteration.
Drive hammered the point a bit harder though…
The score by Mike Patton is simply brilliant, with an experimental style that mixes sparsly produced periods of contemplation with brief flashes of sonic violence. The instrumentation ranges everywhere from piano and choir, to electric guitar, bass, and synthesizer. All wrapped in an ethereal shell which permeates the mood of the film.
A dark crime drama which explores the effects of bad parenting techniques, or a dark parenting drama which explores the effects of bad criminal techniques? Um… well… it’s damn good either way you look at it.
Take a Drink: for each time you see or hear the name for the city of Schenectady, New York (Which Wikipedia tells me actually means “place beyond the pine plains”)
Do a shot: for Ryan Gosling’s signature “even I’d fuck me” smile (actually quite rare in this movie), or for Bradley Cooper’s “smug” smile (also strangely rare).
Do a Shot: to celebrate if you noticed that Ray Liotta and Ben Mendelsohn were in both Killing them Softly and this film, both awesomely unconventional crime dramas released within 5 months of each other.