Written by Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio and Darius Marder
Directed by Derek Cianfrance
Starring Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes and Ben Mendelsohn
Robin: You know something, Luke? If you ride like lightning, you're going to crash like thunder.
Derek Cianfrance made a big splash on the indie film scene a few years back with his heartbreaking drama, BLUE VALENTINE. Many thought that he had captured the breakdown of a troubled relationship so perfectly, including myself. I also thought that, as brave a filmmaker as he was to go to the dark places people rarely go to themselves, he did relish his time there a bit more than he needed to. He returns with another disturbing tale, THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES, and this time, he takes on a lot more and gets a little lost in his own darkness.
THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES is a conventional three-act film that tries very hard to be as non-traditional as possible. Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper, both strong and compelling, play new fathers. Gosling is a total mess, covered in tattoos and wearing rotten shirts inside out to appear as though he is trying to clean himself up. Contrarily, Cooper is as polished as they come, the son of a former judge and a promising rookie cop. They are on opposite sides of the law and their lives become intrinsically connected in ways that I cannot describe without spoiling the plot. Suffice it to say that the mistakes of the fathers are passed on to the next generation and the choice to rectify or continue them is set upon the young.
Cianfrance structures the film in such a way that I think he thinks makes THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES original and daring. Personally, I felt that, by the time Cianfrance reveals to the viewer where he’s going with everything in the second act, he makes it painfully obvious where everything will end up in the third act, which is marred by poor performances on the part of the film’s younger actors. There is an air on the part of the filmmaker that he knows better than the viewer, but I think most viewers will see that his gimmicky structure only really reveals that he doesn’t fully have a handle on his own material.