Sunday, 9 September 2012

THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES - TIFF 2012 - Review By Greg Klymkiw

Who else is getting sick to the point of vomiting with these criminals  played ever-so sensitively by the decidedly un-manly Ryan Gosling? The movies desperately need a new John Garfield to take roles like this. A REAL MAN!!!

The Place Beyond The Pines (2013) **
Dir. Derek Cianfrance
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Ray Liotta, Rose Byrne, Bruce Greenwood, Harris Yulin

Review By Greg Klymkiw

I hate going to the movies to watch television, but at a certain point during The Place Beyond The Pines this mantra-like complaint of mine kept rearing its ugly head. The pat, plodding and annoyingly resolute writing never stopped reminding me of all the things I detest about small screen HBO-styled series (or worse, soap operas). The sprawling, pseudo-novelistic approach to drama, designed to keep you hooked and watching week after week, month after month, season after season is not objectionable as such, but when the seams are sloppily visible to the detriment of the drama, I personally have so little patience for this that my first impulse is to blow a gasket.

In light of this, the best that can be said about Derek Cianfrance's movie is that - in spite of the typical aforementioned small-screen failings - the whole affair is over and done with in 140 minutes.

His haunting, harrowing drama Blue Valentine delved into the well-trodden territory of failed relationships, but his direction (and the great writing) always kept the movie compellingly original and heartbreaking. The Place Beyond The Pines is, however, a pallid crime melodrama that plods clumsily and with bothersome familiarity into "sins of the father" territory - a predictable genre, to be sure, but one that usually benefits when blessed with first-rate style, execution and an original approach. Alas, this one doesn't cut the mustard - not a result of Cianfrance's steady direction and a clutch of decent performances (Eva Mendes, Bradley Cooper, Harris Yulin, Bruce Greenwood), but because finally the film is undercut by the screenplay he co-wrote. The writing is full of obvious clues as to where the tale is going, especially since the form of the tale was spoiled for me by a brief glance at some puff piece that assaulted my eyeballs on the net.

I hate going to the movies knowing anything about what I'm going to see. Regular readers know I never watch trailers, read reviews and/or puff pieces before I see movies. I leave any such "research" to after I see a picture.

However, knowing the form Cianfrance chooses does ruin the experience of seeing the movie. After the fact, I eventually read far too many reviews that boneheadedly revealed the form - not necessarily unique as it's been used by many dramatic mediums since the beginning of time - but as far as I'm concerned, revealing it in advance is a spoiler.

The question here is this: Is it the movie's fault that I opened my browser and an idiot puff piece had the word describing the form in its headline? Short answer: Yes. The script is not much good anyway. All the causes, actions and effects are presented, wrapped up and paid off in dull, predictable ways because the tale's trajectory is obvious about ten minutes into the movie. In fairness, I might have not seen the whole movie coming if I hadn't been tipped off to the form in advance, but I can genuinely say I'd have figured out both the form and narrative by the end of the film's first act.

There's a smidgen of a good movie buried here. In a nutshell, carnival stunt man Ryan Gosling reconnects with Eva Mendes, a former gal-in-every-town fling. Wanting to rekindle their romance and be a good Dad to the kid he sired and left behind, he goes on a spree of bank robberies to amass the dough he thinks he needs to do this. His chief adversary is Bradley Cooper, a cop from the right side of the tracks who had every advantage life could offer - including a wealthy family, a law degree and a passion for police work. When their paths cross, the results affect everyone in ways least expected (though I had them nailed). The sons of bank robber and cop cross paths, leading to a friendship that seems doomed from the start.

On the surface, it's a slender narrative that allows a lot of potential to drape several layers upon it. Alas, the layers applied feel like the worst cliches imaginable and worse, are completely and utterly predictable. Its melodramatic aspects are clear throughout. I never have a problem with melodrama, however. I do respond negatively to bad melodrama which, this movie definitely is chockfull of. Narratively, the movie does offer up a decent first act, a calamitously familiar second act and a completely messy, botched final act.

Once again, it's yet another movie eliciting wild acclaim from people who should know better.

I can only scratch my head and hope the next film from Cianfrance has better writing and that the wild enthusiasm for this mediocre picture gives him an opportunity to genuinely knock all of us on our collective butts with a project worthy of what he's normally got the stuff to truly deliver..

Until then, file The Place Beyond The Fines under stillborn, half-baked and overrated.

"The Place Beyond The Pines" from E-One premieres at TIFF 2012.