Review: The Place Beyond the Pines

Michelle Douvris ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Movie Editor

Ryan Gosling stars as Luke in Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond the Pines, a Focus Features release. © 2012 Focus Features.
Ryan Gosling stars as Luke in Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond the Pines, a Focus Features release. © 2012 Focus Features.
The trick to fully enjoying The Place Beyond the Pines is going into it with an open mind. Don’t Google the plot before you go. Don’t think you know what it’s really about because you saw a trailer or two. And don’t assume that the artistic integrity of the film will be compromised because of the casting of Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper, arguably the hunkiest men in Hollywood. Pines is a truly impressive achievement by director Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine), with complex characters, intense dramatic moments, and a rich narrative that will stick with you long after you leave your seat. Gosling and Cooper deliver fine performances that transcend the traditional “good guy” and “bad guy” constructions the media feeds us, and the setting of Schenectady, New York serves as an authentic backdrop for the fascinating story that these characters help unfold.
I don’t want to reveal too much about the film, but I will tell you a few things: Ryan Gosling knows how to ride a motorcycle, Ray Liotta is absolutely terrifying, babies love ice cream, and robbing a bank is nerve-wracking. I would offer you a more detailed synopsis, but you don’t want it, trust me. It’s so much better to let the film’s twists and turns take you by surprise.
The plot twists weren’t the most surprising part of the night for me, however, when Bradley Cooper himself showed up in person for an incredible Q&A with Cianfrance at the early screening I attended. The two gave some great insight into the filmmaking process, as well as divulged some behind the scenes secrets involving Ryan Gosling’s face tattoos and the meaning of the film’s mysterious title (“the place beyond the pines” is apparently Schenectady’s Mohawk translation). Cianfrance’s thoughtful explanations surrounding his creative choices allowed me to appreciate the film on an even deeper level.
The Place Beyond the Pines is easily one of the year’s best films so far, and I truly hope it gets the recognition it deserves. If you want to see a beautifully crafted movie that explores the ties of family and makes you question your understanding of morality, then this one is for you.

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    1. At some points it feels like “Drive” on a motorcycle. With Ryan Gosling doing his classic limited new yorker tough guy performance, where he seemingly can get the world on their knees with just a “hey”. But ultimately, the rest of the film supersedes any frustrations that an audience may get from this. At least it did for me.

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