Monday, May 13, 2013

The Place Beyond The Pines

★ 1/2
 
 The three separate, linear arcs in The Place Beyond The Pines caused a gasp among the senior citizens in the theater. Each segment -- is it even proper to call these standalone pieces segments? -- builds to a draining climax and we are expected to take a deep breath and start all over again. It's an effective, if ultimately risky, gimmick from the talented Derek Cianfrance.

And yet, while those old people, smelling of eucalyptus and expecting a little something more popcorn friendly from movie stars like Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper, grimaced, I was left awestruck. My eyes were wide nearly the whole 140 minute runtime. Scene after scene crescendos with such conviction. Motorcycle chases. Bank robbery. Dirty cops. Murder. Love. Drugs. Family. There's an unrelenting momentum that never lets up, despite it's pauses in-between each fleeting story. Cianfrance uses symbolism with a wink; making use of the foliage of Schenectady, New York and Maneater by Hall & Oates. It's a much more ambitious film than his brilliantly devastating Blue Valentine, but he treats his characters the same. Do we like they because they look like James Dean or are a good family man? Do we hate them because they exploit the American dream? Cianfrance is a real sunuvabitch when it comes to endings -- it speaks more about the viewer than it does of the work itself. I don't know. I left the theater with the old people in a state of stasis. The last scene still plays vividly in my memory, as if it were lifted from a great American movie of year's past that is indiscernible. Then I decided: this is a scene from a great American movie.

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