'The Place Beyond the Pines' is beyond good
I don't remember the last time I saw a movie this good. Everything about "The Place Beyond the Pines" comes together so well in its telling of an intense, deep and, for some, perhaps too heavy story. Well-directed, acted and aided by an emotionally moving score, this may be as close to a perfect movie as any to come out in the year 2013 so far.
Ryan Gosling plays Luke Glanton, a low life motorcycle stunt performer with a traveling carnival. Every inch of his body is covered in tattoos, he speaks with vulgarity and in uneducated tones, he wears inside out dirty t-shirts and he is constantly smoking cigarette after cigarette. He's finally distanced himself from the sweet guy in "The Notebook," as possible as he's clearly been trying to ever since. His appearance sets us up for the archetype we immediately associate with him, but Gosling makes Luke likeable despite the fact that he is a psycho. Luke finds out that he has a one-year-old son with a girl he used to have a fling. She doesn't want him involved and has a new man who has a real job, goes to church, but Luke quits his job to live nearby and wants to support his son. As Luke puts it, "I didn't have my dad around and look how I turned out." Unable to find a well-paying job, Luke decides to start robbing banks after his friend suggests it.
All around, the performances are great, but Gosling gives the best performance of his career. He's psychotic, but we feel for him. His friend teaches him to quietly and non-violently rob a bank. He tells him he won't even need a gun. Luke grabs a gun, makes a scene and immediately gets vicious. We later see him beat a man unnecessarily, but we still manage to feel sorry for Luke. In act two, we switch our focus from Gosling to Bradley Cooper after their lives intersect. He plays rookie cop turned hero, Avery Cross. While Cooper isn't given too many speeches or too much room to overact like he was in "Silver Linings Playbook," he has never played a more vulnerable character and he really brings the role to life.
The film's main focus is the effect of fathers on their sons. In act two, we find Avery has a one year old son like Luke, but for reasons I cannot spoil he finds himself unable to be a very attentive father despite his love for him. We see Avery's relationship with his own father and despite the loving relationship between them, there is still friction as Avery wants to be his own man rather than become his father. However as things unfold, the director tells us that all men are inevitably going to become their fathers.
In act three, we see the lives of Luke and Avery come together again, but 15 years later when their children are in high school, and we get to see how the influence of the two fathers on their sons played out. This isn't a film for everyone-if you are looking for an action packed bank robbery crime film like "The Town," you will be disappointed. Instead we have a two hour and 20-minute crime drama with some action and plenty of intensity and tension throughout to keep you on the edge of your seat, but nothing like what the trailer suggests. However, it tells an important story with important themes of family, fatherhood and masculinity that all men, and even women can relate to and take something away from. It's not the greatest ever made, but it's certainly a film I will hold in high esteem and will not forget the Oscar-worthy experience. It's early, but it's safe to say this will be towards the top of my best of 2013 list come December.
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