The journey of fatherhood-A privilege to many, a burden to some. For some men, fatherhood means the end of fun, the end of a care-free lifestyle, and the true beginning of manhood. The implications of becoming a father call for serious self-discovery and evaluation, and an adoption of unquestionable responsibility. The Place Beyond The Pines embraces the challenges that come with the job of becoming a father in today’s world, and explore the difficulties in retaining that responsibility over (usually) 18 years. Unfortunately, “Pines” fails after a fantastic 90 minutes that are followed up by a dismally acted, embarrassing third act. For a film that had so much talent and passion, its almost depressing that it overstays its welcome for another 40 minutes of crap.
To a great triumph, however, Place Beyond The Pines runs as somewhat of an anthology film, telling three intertwining, yet related stories that chronicle the lives of two young men (Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper) and their role in the world as individuals and as fathers. Gosling stars as Luke Glanton, a soft-spoken motorcycle stuntman who travels city to city as part of a carnival act.
On a side note, it may be a given now that Gosling will be some kind of motor vehicle extraordinaire from now on in his films.
Luke is thrown into a quandary when he learns of his infant son after an old flame (Eva Mendes) enters his life once again. The realization of his role as a father prompts Luke to take initiative and support his son, no matter what the means may be. This leads to Luke’s development into a passionate criminal with the only intention of spoiling his son. It must be noted that Ryan Gosling brings forth an excellent performance as Luke, which may finally put to rest his “heart throb” status and solidify him as a legitimate silver screen actor. Gosling’s multi-dimensional performance is the foundation for a terrific first act that comes to a close in great fashion.
Enter our next character, Avery, played by Bradley Cooper, whose story is nicely woven into the film with an interesting “opening” sequence. Avery is a young, upstanding cop on a questionably legitimate police force. After an accident leaves him wounded, Avery questions his masculinity, morality, and his life as a father.
Bradley Cooper has the best performance of the film, hands down. The layers of the character that Cooper portrays over the duration of the film is nothing short of spectacular. There are a few particular moments in the film in which Cooper gives Oscar-worthy acting, and it is truly is exciting to see a typecast such as Cooper pull off a tremendous performance in this film.
It almost breaks my heart to say that the film’s third act, however, fails, miserably. The third act is what turns a fantastic film, into just a “good” film. I am not going to spoil anything, but it goes without saying that the third act hardly features Cooper and Gosling. When they are there, it is outstanding, but when they are not in the picture, the film just becomes annoying and tedious, much a due to the horrific acting, mostly by one particular actor. What also tarnishes the third act is the lack of rational behavior by one of the characters. Its not even rational in the sense of how an irrational person thinks, if that makes any sense.
Let me equate an example:
Let’s say I saw some fat kid eating a chocolate bar at the playground. I did not really want the chocolate bar earlier, but since the fat kid is eating a chocolate bar I could have bought an hour ago, I kick his fat ass.
Doesn’t make sense? Yeah, didn’t think so.
The blatant lack of motive and rationale from one of the third act leads is nothing short of implausible, silly, and contrived. There is some great territory to be explored in the third act, but it is all thrown down the proverbial drain. Here is a MINOR SPOILER that I will throw out:
Surrounding fatherhood: The third act has potential at exploring fatherhood from a stepfather’s point of view, but it completely ignored and works against the characters, arising many questions as to why the characters are acting so irrationally. And for a final MINOR SPOILER, it must be known that Bradley Cooper nearly wins back the film with more of his astounding performance toward the end of the third act.
The ending, however, got me shaking my head and saying “No, no, why, why?! WHY DID THEY DO THAT?! THAT’S SO STUPID!” The final scene was literally about 30 seconds in, and I knew exactly how it was going to end. The film ends on a cliche, predictable, and downright dumbed-down note that just had me more excited to leave the theater.
In the end, The Place Beyond The Pines is a great film that just settles to be a good film. Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper make the first two-thirds of a the film a fantastic future classic, but the putrid mess that is the third act is what anchors this movie below the water, drowning it. My recommendation would be to go see this film, and leave after the first 90 or 100 minutes. Because within those first 90 minutes is a fantastically acted, dramatic crime epic that you’ll certainly love. The third act will have you writing a lengthy article about how much this film disappointed you in the end.
FINAL GRADE: B-