Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Place Beyond the Pines

As with director Derek Cianfrance’s previous picture, “Blue Valentine,” the whole of “The Place Beyond the Pines” is less than the sum of its parts.
Ryan Gosling again stars as Luke Glanton, a carnival motorcycle rider who, upon discovering that one of his “girls in every port” has given birth to a baby, decides to stay in town (Schenectady, N.Y.) and turns to bank robberies to make money to support his son and to try to win Baby Mama back. Bradley Cooper plays Avery Cross, the cop who chases Luke across town the day he presses his luck with one heist too many, a chase that ends in gunfire. The press materials portray the characters as deeply interrelated, but “Pines” is actually two separate movies: a compelling first hour about Gosling, and a much less interesting eighty minutes about Cooper, who’s given a more developed story arc involving ethical quandaries and political aspirations but who still hasn’t made me feel an honest emotion in a film. I certainly wouldn’t kick him out of bed for eating crackers, but Gosling as Luke is so unspeakably cool – between this role and “Drive,” Gosling’s like a latter-day James Dean without the untimely demise – that his specter hangs over the movie long after he’s gone. What feels fresh and real in his “half” feels contrived and stage-set in Cooper’s, with seemingly few people in town besides Avery’s family and coworkers – and a through line devoid of suspense. By the two hour and twenty minute mark, “The Place Beyond the Pines” has put the sag in saga.

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