Utterly compelling with a magic wand of storytelling from writer/director Derek Cianfrance along with co-writers Ben Coccio and Darius Marber, The Place Beyond the Pines is one of the more natural and stylistic endeavors of 2013. Beautifully constructed and captured by DP Sean Bobbitt and orchestrated superbly by Mike Patton, the film has all the necessary qualities to become a future classic.
Deeply affecting when it needs, the film’s first two-thirds hold the viewer on for an emotional roller coaster through the lives of our characters. Academy Award Nominees Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper attack their roles with aggression and fury. I haven’t seen Gosling wear a character this comfortably since Lars and the Real Girl (2007). He sticks his landing time and time again throughout his time on-screen. As Luke, he stimulates the raw intake of fear, despair, and regret in a manner almost reminiscent of James Dean. Another proof of his abilities to exercise his talents expertly.
Cooper on the other hand has truly transformed himself from the popcorn-shtick of The Hangover (2009) into a genuine and emotionally driven performer that will continue to surprise audiences for years to come. He’s layered with feelings that continue to present themselves and mutate into a new level of execution. He forms ‘Avery’ from a cloth of prestigious and impressive turns by actors playing cops. In the same vein that made Ethan Hawke so brilliant in Training Day (2001), Cooper allows the audience to sit alongside him not only in his day-to-day job, but also in the corruption that goes with it. He smooths out the inner essence of family, both immediate and surrogate, for his entire duration. I can’t get enough of Cooper.
What impresses me most about Derek Cianfrance and what he chooses to exercise here as oppose to his last effort, Blue Valentine (2010), he keeps the narrative intimate. As he transitions from one tale to the next, he doesn’t get wrapped up in clichéd epiphanies or trite characters that are placed there just to keep the story moving. Each person is given the appropriate detail, flaws and all, moral or immoral, and driven by their motivations that have them meet their ultimate fulfillment, whatever that ends up becoming. I don’t think there’s anyone who emerges from this film and truly owns it more than Cianfrance.
What was interesting and even more surprising is what Cianfrance digs out of Eva Mendes. Always striking and easy on the eyes in anything she’s in, she nearly de-glamorizes not only her look but her entire moral being. Vividly engaging, though I’d argue a tad miscast, she makes the most of her screen time and nails every nuance of Romina.
When it comes to young actors Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen, they manage to create their own memorable and dynamic representations of troubled youth searching for their purpose. DeHaan where’s every ounce of pain on his face, similar to Hayden Christiansen in Life as a House (2001). Compelling and talented, DeHaan magnifies the power of being dedicated to your craft. When it comes to Emory Cohen, he’s just pure cinematic enjoyment. He doesn’t play the role safe as he makes choices to elevate the aura of AJ. If you ever lived in or around New York, he will feel like almost every kid you’ve encountered during your time there. I’m anxiously awaiting what Cohen will deliver in the near future.
As an awards player, it’s one of the best things that the year has offered thus far. A focused and detailed campaign for Original Screenplay and any of the supporting actors are well worth the price of an ad. Bradley Cooper and Ryan Gosling are two feasible entries for consideration. On a technical merit, the film trumps anything that has come stateside this year. Cinematography, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, and Original Score are four categories, bar none, where the film is in desperate need of recognition. You can’t walk away and not be enchanted with some of the shots Bobbitt manages to capture or the music that Mike Patton accompanies one of the film’s most emotional and thoughtful moments. He infuses music into the screen like a true professional.
Pick up Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond the Pines on Blu-Ray and DVD today!
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