The Place Beyond the Pines

June, 2013, Drama

 The Place Beyond the Pines

 The best part of writing jakestakes comes when I can recommend a film you might not otherwise have seen (Mud is a perfect recent example) while suggesting you avoid films that have been over-rated by the critics. Such is the case with this 2nd directorial effort by Derek Cianfrance, whose Blue Valentine generated high praise when it was released two years ago. Working from a story developed with writer Ben Coccio and joined on the actual script by 1st time screenwriter Darius Marder, Pines labors for 2 hours and 20 minutes to tell a story which could have been comprehensively presented in half that time with far more impact. Don’t be lured by the reviews this movie’s garnered – it’s turgid drama starring Ryan Gosling & Bradley which starts well, then meanders towards an entirely unsatisfactory ending.

 Gosling plays Luke, a generously tattooed carnival stuntman who wields his motorcycle like a missile when he isn’t pursuing what used to be called “impressionable young ladies”. When he unknowingly impregnates one and returns to her hometown a year later on the carny circuit, he decides being a father would be a good career move. Out of work when his employer moves on, Luke takes up bank robbery as his preferred profession, only to be nabbed by Avery, a rookie cop in a corrupt police department in upstate New York.  An attorney inexplicably turned lawman, Avery leverages the favorable publicity he earns in apprehending Luke, converting his brief fame as a heroic cop into an appointment on the district attorney’s staff.

 Flash forward 15 years; Avery’s running for state attorney general despite repeated scandals caused by his teenage son who happens to be corrupting – you guessed it – the son of the man who launched Avery’s career as a crime-fighter. What began as a swiftly choreographed study of working class men with limited job prospects turns into a 3rd rate tale of juvenile delinquency and a curiously muddled examination of political opportunism.

 Gosling, a 30 year-old Canadian actor know for a capacity to hermetically seal his character’s emotions (Drive, Ides of March) presents Luke sympathetically but the storyline quickly moves on to the far less interesting Avery, son of a state court judge (Harris Yulin) who thinks his offspring’s prospects are far better served by entering political life. The plot requires Avery to morph from dedicated if impressionable rookie to cynical “pol” - a transition the actor’s incapable of pulling off.

 Cooper, he of the Ivy League good looks and disarming smile (Silver Linings Playbook, Hangovers 1, 2 & 3) may posses a certain boyish charm - - but his work here borders on the grossly amateurish, taking Pines’ increasingly improbable storyline to a conclusion both bewildering and thoroughly unsatisfying. None of the movie’s characters adequately resolve the challenges established for their parts in the script; when a “riding off into the sunset” conclusion arrives, it simply buries a movie that has long since wandered off into a forest of irrelevance.

 Fine supporting work by Yulin, Bruce Greenwood and Ray Liotta can’t deliver the credibility Pines requires and cinematographer Sean Bobbitt’s wonderfully hyperkinetic chase sequences don’t overcome the lackluster pacing and distracting subplots of the film’s final hour and a half. What starts well runs out of gas after the first reel.

 The Verdict? A disappointing sophomore effort by a highly touted auteur. Don’t waste your time. 

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