The Place Beyond the Pines

Apr 17, 2013

The Place Beyond the Pines Grade: B+ Director: Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine) Screenplay: Cianfrance, Ben Coccio (The Beginner), Darius Marder Cast: Ryan Gosling (The Ides of March), Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook) Rating: R Runtime: 140 min. by John DeSando “If you ride like lightning, you're going to crash like thunder.” Robin (Ben Mendelsohn) Luke (Ryan Gosling) rides a motorcycle at lightning speed with the abandon promising a thunderous crash, mostly metaphorical. He is not only a circus showman with that bike, but he is also an unwed dad who robs banks to provide for that child. The Place beyond the Pines is epic but accessible, an easy chronology making for effective storytelling and a Greek aura of inevitability. So begins a tripartite story with Luke owning the first part, Avery (Bradley Cooper) the second, and Jason (Dane DeHann) and AJ (Emory Cohen) the third. The chronological order of the three parts makes this an easy viewing despite its 140 minutes. In fact, so important to the saga of families under a Greek tragic umbrella is the order, that less time would be much less story. I usually opt for a shorter version, but this one begs for full disclosure. Already accomplished with Blue Valentine, writer/director Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond the Pines is “Greek tragic” because the sins of the fathers (Luke and Avery) are vested on their children in a web that can seem contrived but is artistically pleasing to me. The working out of fates such as Avery’s—as cop he catches Luke in a robbery—and Jason—he suffers the memory of his father, Luke, with what seems like an imperative to become like him--has a certainty about it that takes homely circumstances and filters them through the grand scheme of all things for all time. What works in this somewhat depressing narrative is the inevitability that accompanies evil, while innocence, although not absent, has measurable losses to bad to make an uneasy but satisfactorily tragic arc. Come to think of it, the outrageous coincidences don’t seem so odd to me once I realize they are just a maximalist application away from sweeping cinema. Moreover, seeing Ryan Gosling channel Marlon Brando’s Wild One and expand his own bad boy from Drive gives The Place a place in modern cinema goodness. John DeSando co-hosts WCBE 90.5’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics, which can be heard streaming and on-demand at He also appears on Fox 28’s Man Panel. Contact him at