Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper in a film together? Talent and good looks times two? Hell yeah; I’m up for that!
Blue Valentine Director Derek Cianfrance tackles the legacy of fatherhood, studying two families intertwined across two generations, their entire lives directed by one fateful event.
The film’s opening sequence tracks Ryan Gosling’s beefy, tattooed character from the back. His faceless introduction a warning: don’t get too attached to this one – though central to the story now, this could change.
Spanning over 15 years, we witness a bold thematic sweep across three related stories: Ryan Gosling’s unexpected fatherhood leading him to crime to provide for his son, Bradley Cooper’s young cop who brings about Gosling’s demise, and their teenage sons riddled with Daddy-issues.
Subtle, yet somehow operatic in it’s four overly dramatic (yet deadly-serious) acts, The Place Beyond the Pines runs for a painfully slow 2 hours and 20 minutes. The feeling of dread so competently installed in the viewer from the electrifying opening sequence steadily increases with each passing minute until it’s almost too much to bear.
Ultimately, it literally does become too much and, as such, in act three (the troublesome teens segment) there is an undeniable lull where the audience, fed up with waiting for a climax that hasn’t come yet, start to lose patience.
Luckily, good things come to those who wait and we are, eventually, rewarded with a riveting act four.
I’ll admit, crime dramas are not my genre of choice. What is enjoyable about watching your central characters plod along, repeatedly making dumb decisions only to have everything end bad? I swear that is the story of arc of EVERY crime drama in history and this one (though admittedly more sophisticated in it’s execution) is not much different.
Yep, the acting is superb. The cinematography is gritty and composition well thought-out. It’s dripping with iconography and symbolism (Gosling’s extensive tattoos make him a walking mash of metaphors). The sound track is subtle and effective, and the film explores paternity well.
However, all things said and done, the result is hardly gripping. I purposely did not read the synopsis prior thus giving the story every chance to ‘grab me’. But it didn’t. I was mildly interested, but that’s about it.
Perhaps I needed to be male to appreciate the full weight of the themes? Perhaps I needed to be American to fully understand the social nuances?
Though I acknowledge the film-making is of quality, it ultimately felt like an over-long ‘downer’ of a night out. Even the oodles of good looks couldn’t make this hard slog any easier to digest.
I rate it 5 stars.