The Place Beyond The Pines

 A very good, tight, well acted first part that led to a downright boring, empty and really meaningless second act, and thankfully brought to a rather emotionally satisfactory close in the final third. Very similar stylistic to Derek Cianfrance's "Blue Valentine" which I just recently caught. Plot wise, nothing too new or groundbreaking, but the story idea is good. The thematic backbone is strong: Fathers and Sons. The age old adages of "sins of the father, paid by the sons" and "the fruit does not fall far from the tree" is thematically explored here by the two families. Unfortunately, the weakest link is Bradley Cooper. Sure, he's a recently Oscar nominated actor, but he has not convinced me that he can really act. And sadly, the second third was all about him and he was just so blank and unconvincing in his portrayal that it was literally boring. I really wished that I could just fast forward through his story. And of course he was not helped by a ridiculous subplot thrown in that actually served no purpose in the grand emotional arc of things. His storyline can be easily summarised in a ten minutes, fifteen minutes tops, scene. Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes, and Dean Dehaan (a rising star, mind my words...this chap is someone to watch out for) in the third act, are the true emotional core of the show. Cianfrance spent the whole first third having the audience invested in Gosling and Mendes, and rooting for the anti-hero, and then suddenly sharp shift in POV, and we are thrusted abruptly into the world of Cooper and the Law. And there we stayed, expecting us to fall in line behind this guy who just appeared literally out of nowhere. By the time the third act rolled up I was ready to be disappointed by the movie, but strong performances by the two young leads, especially Dehaan, and a more credible storyline resolving the younger generation's conflict with their fathers saved the show. The emotional torch was relit as we are re-introduced to Gosling's family and his son, and as an audience we are now drawn back in to see how Gosling's story will end. Gladly, it did not end the usual sappy Hollywood manner. But again, Cooper is so extraneous. Will he have been so heavily promoted if not for his turn in "Silver Linings Playbook"? The scenes with Bruce Greenwood were standouts, and he had the best lines and also delivered a lot of the emotional themes that Cianfrance and writers Ben Coccio and Darius Marder were trying to explore with that story/screenplay. A little shout out to Eva Mendes who was actually quite good in the first act, but sadly had a much reduced role thereafter. After watching "Blue Valentine", I was accustomed to Cianfrance's style of directing, but others may find it distracting.  Lots of long takes and obviously unrehearsed scenes that required the actors' to adlib (and this is where Cooper also miserably failed). Not your standard Hollywood fare, nor even your standard indie fare, but at the end, ignoring the second act, a rather authentic and emotionally despairing exploration of the father-son relationship and their role/purpose in each others' life, helped along by a fitting score by Mike Patton.


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