Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

May 1, 2013

Split review on the determined “The Place Beyond the Pines”

Ryan Maddux & Andy Stuckey
Greensburg Daily News

Greensburg — On the heels of the summer movie season, we finish off the spring movie run with the indie drama “The Place Beyond the Pines” (Rated R).

Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper and Eva Mendez round out a cast that shows the interweaving lives of a criminal and a police officer over the course of fifteen-plus years in Schenectady, N.Y. Derek Cianfrance directs.

Ryan: The Place Beyond the Pines is ambitious. It’s comprised of three short stories that are thematically interconnected, spanning over fifteen years. The fact the film pulls off this narrative scope is applaudable but it is also the film’s biggest negative. It seems ridiculous for one to argue that a two-hour-and-twenty-minute movie should be longer, but I really feel this movie could’ve used a few more scenes to build up certain relationships and motivations. But don’t get me wrong, “The Place Beyond” the Pines is still a quality movie despite some of its narrative shortcomings.

Andy: “The Place Beyond the Pines” suffers from one major flaw it’s unable to overcome: It’s is far too long. Director Cianfrance takes an ambition track in trying to tell a detailed story that completely shifts its narrative focus twice. The first shift is jarring, but effective. We are suddenly not watching the story we thought we were, or rather, we’re watching the story from an entirely different point of view. It’s not the first time the trick has been tried (think of the successful pivot Hitchcock pulled off in “Psycho”) and it’s hard not to respect such a lofty attempt at storytelling. But then he tries it again, and it doesn’t work at all. Generally speaking, when a movie reaches the 90-plus-minute mark, informs the audience that it’s “15 Years Later,” and then goes on for another hour, it does not work out very well.

Ryan: Derek Cianfrance’s last film feature was the under-appreciated “Blue Valentine” (probably on my short list of this decade’s best films). “Valentine” was an extremely intense, yet resonate drama that showcased two fine performances by its leads: Ryan Gosling and Michele Williams.

Gosling’s character in “Pines” is a more perverse version of his “Valentine” character. But the more mischievous element of the character provides yet another opportunity for Gosling to deliver yet another memorable performance. Not since Steve McQueen has an actor said more by saying less.

Andy: The shortcomings of “The Place Beyond the Pines” is particularly frustrating, because it features some of Hollyewood’s most promising actors, along with a solid veteran supporting crew. Across the board, everyone does a pretty good job.

As Ryan stated, Gosling is fully embracing his Steve McQueen period, Cooper successfully builds on his newly evident acting chops, while all the other supporting players deftly fill their roles. Problem is, this movie unfolds so slowly, by the time the two-hour mark rolls around, the whole exercise feels tedious. If this had been a tight, 90-minute crime drama, it would be a much stronger movie. Final grade: C-

Ryan: Like “Blue Valentine,” “The Place Beyond the Pines” will resonate long after viewing. The themes of fathers and sons; of honor and duty; of nature vs. nurture; play out in a reverberating manner in the film. The third act might prove problematic to some moviegoers -- I get that. But overall the film strives for big things, and while it doesn’t quite attain its lofty aspirations, “The Place Beyond the Pines” is still a solid indie drama. Final grade: B.