Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Place Beyond the Pines

Directed by Derek Cianfrance and written by Cianfrance, Ben Coccio, and Darius Marder from a story by Cianfrance and Coccio, The Place Beyond the Pines is a multi-layered story about two different men who cross into each other’s paths leaving way for their sons to meet many years later. The film is an exploration into the sins of a father and how it would play into the life of their sons. Starring Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Rose Byrne, Dane DeHaan, Emory Cohen, Ben Mendelsohn, and Ray Liotta. The Place Beyond the Pines is a mesmerizing and sprawling film from Derek Cianfrance.

When a child arrives into the world, the one thing that their fathers hope to do is to make sure they raise their children better than their fathers did in the previous generation. The film is a story that spans 20 years as it revolves two very different men whose paths would cross each other as they would later set a troubling fate for their sons many years later when they meet not knowing what they have in common. The film has a very unique narrative where it has a traditional three-act structure yet it plays into the fates that would come into play as it all takes place in Schenectady, New York. Notably as the first two acts is about the two different men whose fates would cross each other and the impact it would have as its third act revolves the lives of their sons as teenagers.

The screenplay’s three acts are about these four different men as the first act is about a motorcycle stuntman named Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling). The second act is about a good low-level cop named Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper) and the third is about their two sons whose paths would meet each other many years later. The first two act show these two men who both have very good intentions for what they want to do in life as well as set good examples of their sons but they would encounter things that would set the fates for their sons to follow. Notably as Glanton would turn to crime to provide for his son while Cross finds himself in a world of corruption as he turns snitch in order to move up in the world. The paths these two men take would have some uneasy consequences the two would make as well as create a sense of guilt of the path that they take as it would cause trouble for their sons.

The third act showcases a modern world in which Avery Cross has reinvented himself as a politician but one who is still carrying the guilt over his encounter with Glanton as he is also troubled by the antics of his son AJ (Emory Cohen). When A.J. meets a teenager named Jason (Dane DeHaan) who is has no knowledge that Glanton is his real father, their meeting would not only cause a lot of trouble but also unveil the secrets that Avery Cross had been carrying his whole life. While the film is largely about father and sons, there are women who are present in the story as Luke’s former girlfriend Romina (Eva Mendes) is hesitant about having Luke in her life as some of the events that happen forces her to not tell Jason about her father. Avery’s wife Jennifer (Rose Byrne) may not have much time as Romina but she is still crucial as a woman who is forced to see her husband move away from her and the family to do right as he becomes more uncomfortable being called a hero.

Derek Cianfrance’s direction is quite stylish in not just the way he presents Schenectady, New York as an interesting area that is a mixture of a modern world clashing with nature but also a place where it’s a small microcosm that is quite uneasy. With some very interesting tracking shots such as the opening shot of the camera following Luke Glanton around the fairground just as he’s to perform his stunt. There is an air of grain to the look of the film as if it’s meant to create a sense of atmosphere and nostalgia as much of the film takes place somewhere in the 1980s or 1990s. Particularly in the first act as Cianfrance places an air of grit with some hand-held cameras to intensify things as well as placing the cameras for some very stylish chase scenes.

Things cool down during the second act where the framing and camerawork is more controlled as it is dramatic but also filled with some suspense as it revolves around Avery Cross’ encounter with corruption. There are scenes that play into a sense of danger but also melancholy as Cross begins to alienate himself from his family to battle corruption. The third act becomes a mixture of both preceding acts but it has an air of tragedy as it relates to the events in the preceding two acts and how both Avery Cross and Luke Glanton would set up this very troubling fate for the meeting of their sons and how it all comes back to the past. Overall, Derek Cianfrance creates a very compelling and intense film about fathers and the sins they unknowingly create for their sons.

Cinematographer Sean Bobbitt does brilliant work with the film‘s photography where he infuses some grainy camera work into the picture as well as maintaining something very naturalistic for many of the film‘s exteriors as well as placing some lights for some stylish moments of the film. Editors Jim Helton and Ron Patane do excellent work with the editing by using some stylish cuts for some of the film‘s chase scenes as well as some more slow-paced yet methodical cuts for the dramatic moments. Production designer Inbal Weinberg, with set decorator Jasmine E. Ballou and art director Michael Ahern, does wonderful work with the set pieces from the trailer and auto shop that Luke lives in to the home of Avery Cross to represent the two different worlds they live in.

Costume designer Erin Benach does terrific work with the costumes from the ragged clothes of Luke as well as the more youthful clothes that Romina wears in the first act to the more casual look of Avery Cross in the film‘s second act as he becomes a more refined man in the third. Sound designer Dan Flosdorf does amazing work with the sound to capture the atmosphere of the fairgrounds as well as the chase scenes and some very intense moments in some of dramatic portions of the film. The film’s music by Mike Patton is superb for its very haunting use of ambient textures and vocal choirs as well as some low-key orchestration to create dramatic moods for the film. Music supervisor Gabe Hilfer creates a fantastic soundtrack that includes a wide array of music ranging from classical pieces from Avro Part and Gregorio Allegri as well as contemporary music from Bruce Springsteen, Hall and Oates, The Cryin’ Shame, Ennio Morricone, Suicide, Bon Iver, Salem, and Two Fingers.

The casting by Cindy Tolan is incredible for the ensemble that was used as it includes some notable small performances from Gabe Fazio as Cross’ fellow officer Scott, Olga Merediz as Romina’s mother, Robert Clohessy as Cross’ chief, Harris Yulin as Avery’s father, Bruce Greenwood as a district attorney who questions Cross about the corruption in the force, and Mahershala Ali as Romina’s boyfriend Kofi who would become the one father figure Jason would have in his life. Ray Liotta is excellent as a corrupt officer who takes Cross around to show him the benefits which makes Cross uneasy while Ben Mendelsohn is terrific as the auto shop owner Robin who aids Luke in the bank robberies. Emory Cohen is very good as Cross’ son AJ as a young city kid who is forced to live with his father as he tries to rule the town.

Dane DeHaan is brilliant as Luke and Romina’s son Jason as a young loner teen who meets AJ as he becomes troubled by the revelations about who is father is as well as the fact that his mother has been carrying a secret about his father. Rose Byrne is superb in a small role as Avery’s wife Jennifer as a woman who tries to deal with the new fame her husband has as well as the things he does that has her alienated from him. Eva Mendes is great as Luke’s old flame Romina who deals with Luke’s return as well as what he tries to do as she later becomes a bitter woman trying to carry a secret that she doesn’t want her son to know about.

Bradley Cooper is marvelous as Avery Cross as a good man who finds himself entangled in the world of police corruption as he seeks to do something right only to drive away his family as he becomes consumed with guilt over his actions and how his son has turned out. Ryan Gosling is phenomenal as Luke Glanton as an intense man wanting to do right for his ex-girlfriend and their son as he turns to crime to provide for them only to set things in motion for the sense of confusion his son would endure in the years to come.

The Place Beyond the Pines is an outstanding film from Derek Cianfrance that features top-notch performances from Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper. Along with a great supporting cast, amazing technical work, and Mike Patton’s chilling score. The film is definitely a very captivating look into the world of fathers and the sins they place into their sons as well as the theme of redemption. In the end, The Place Beyond the Pines is a remarkable film from Derek Cianfrance.

Derek Cianfrance Films: (Brother Tied) - Blue Valentine - (Cagefighter) - (Metalhead)

© thevoid99 2013


Chris said...

I really liked this one too. I agree the soundtrack is fantastic,scene with dog and Dancing in the Dark is amazing. The Snow Angel and Ninna Nanna Per Adulteri are favorites as well.
It's kinda weird Cianfrance and Gosling look and speak the same way, almost like brothers, I guess they were meant to make movies. I look forward to the directors next film.

Dan O. said...

Good review Steve. Have nothing bad to say about the cast at all, it's just that the script helping them out is taking them down as well. Starts off perfectly, but dives into obvious convention that I'd more or less see in a big-budget, mainstream movie trying to be all insightful and emotional, yet missing. I expect a bit more from my indies, especially ones directed by the guy who gave me my favorite date movie of 2010.

thevoid99 said...

@Chris-I'm definitely looking forward to what Derek Cianfrance is going to do next as I'm eager to check out more of his work.

@Dan O.-I can understand the frustrations as the third act wasn't as strong as its predecessors but I knew where it was going since it did play into that father/son theme.