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Courtesy of Atsushi Nishijima
Ryan Gosling plays Luke in Director Derek Cianfrance’s film The Place Beyond The Pines.
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★★★✩✩

The Place Beyond The Pines

Directed by Derek Cianfrance

Starring Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Ray Liotta and Rose Byrne

Rated R

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Epic beyond need, melodramatic, and full of obvious references, to the point where it becomes somewhat patronizing, The Place Beyond the Pines is nonetheless full of beautiful scenes (and actors).

Don’t get me wrong, I really liked Blue Valentine and was looking forward to a full two hours plus of emotional intensity, but much to my dismay, the film had me rolling my eyes. Featuring a bra-less nipple-tease waitress named Romina (Eva Mendes), and a motorcycle stunt driver with an over-worn Metallica t-shirt, bad-boy tattoos, and sweet childish demeanor named Luke (Ryan Gosling), the film felt overplayed, ready-made, and oozed an artificial hipness.

Divided into three parts, the film is long — two generations go by. In the first part, old flames Luke and Romina reconnect after years, and Luke discovers he fathered her son, so he decides to quit his job as a stunt driver in order to stick around and play the providing father. He ends up as a mechanic turned bank robber, for whom one bank or two is not enough. Alongside him is boss and partner in crime Robin (Ben Mendelsohn), who plays what feels like a sadly prototypical role.

The second part of this unnecessarily long film is filled with beautiful chase scenes, uninteresting twists, death, corruption, and cops (with fairly good performances by Bruce Greenwood and the one and only Ray Liotta). In the third part, we fast-forward about a decade — two sons (Emory Cohen and Dane DeHaan) mature into teens, befriend each other, and fall into hostilities. The story evolves predictably, with coincidences that bring everything back to the beginning of the saga — granted, with stellar performances by Cohen and DeHaan, which bring much needed excitement into the film.

On the one hand, the movie had some stunning scenes and strong performances. The opening scene with the motorcycles in the cage was nothing less than powerful. Gosling charmed me, tattoos and all, and would have charmed my mom too. We empathize with him, and recognize a kind of nobility — his character isn’t “bad” per se, but has to make the best of an unfortunate situation.

On the other hand, by the end of the film I still did not understand what the purpose of the movie was — it was unclear what feeling Ciafrance was trying to instill in the viewer. The overstated understatements, the one too many corny references, and the unnecessarily complicated plot combined to leave me exhausted. Unfortunately, given my excitement at the start of the film, I felt let down, with my emotional craving unsatisfied. The Place Beyond the Pines promises much, but doesn’t deliver.