The Place Beyond the Pines. Directed by: Derek Cianfrance (pronounced chamfer) and written by his own self, he, too. Starring: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva (woof!) Mendes, Ray Liotta, Mahershala Ali (Who?), Ben Mendelsohn (Who?), coupla sulky adolescent ac-toors, vulpine and sinuous-lipped, registering (Hollywood-grade) sulky adolescence. Remember what Dr. Spock said: "If you get your idiot kid a flockin' haircut, he's got a better chance of not grow up to be a bonehead." You can look that up. Proof positive: One of these teens gets tonsured and strides smiling into sunlit asphodel while t'other slinks shaggy off into shadow and bitterness.
There needs be a special ring of Inferno for whosomever take first-class movie idols, especially more than one at a time, and turn an execrable, precious, overwrought fil-um out of their collaboration, ring whose population would swell likewise also too by the number of bleating, sanctimonious critics who find something heavy out of incomprehensibility, opacity, fog, sophistry, pretentiousness. The director of the recent film RED (Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich) is currently, for instance, warming up a bench Down There for this guy Cianfrance who twice now has launched Ryan Gosling as a wordless marginal into failed domesticity (Blue Valentine, now Pines). Evidence, by the bye, that Gosling is a capable wordless marginal you can find in Drive, sequel and epigone to a number of "driven" flicks, notably Drive (Ryan O'Neal in a rare virtuosity piece), The Last Run (George C. Scott, when he was, playing--oddly enough--when he was), and lately, infused with adrenaline, the Transporter triptych (Jason Statham). Likewise Bradley Cooper has embarked on a couple of play-against-type ac-toor roles, for which he draws moos of admiration and Oscar (Tm) nominations: crazy and retarded always crowd-pleasers (one recalls Downey Jr's riff in Tropical Thunder on ac-toors who snag critical reviews for playing variously partial or "full ree-tards," in the phrase of art, though you risk the enmity of the anti-defamation league in either case). This flick, if I have it right, might be the first one in which he plays shaven.
Every morn and every night
Some are born to sweet delight;
Every night and every morn
Some to misery are born.
Some are born to sweet delight;
Some are born to endless night.
[Many readers will be too young to remember when Barbra Streisand sang those unforgettable lines in her first ever album, Grain of Sand, from the movie of same name featuring Robert Blake as William Blake in youth and Amanda Blake as William Blake the adult, Streisand as the etchings].
How do the conditions of our birth shape our destiny? What determines where we'll go in life? Is our essence decided prior to our existence or t'other way around? Whaaa...? To get an answer to these grave conundra (lot like "puzzles," but existentialer), we follow a family, better yet two, on their itinerary through life, odyssey for which the cinee-mah, with its fracturing of time and its miraculous aging and de-aging of characters can accomplish (Question: Is the dying Charles Foster Kane really just Orson Welles in make-up or another whole ac-toor who looks like him old? How about Geena Davis' older self in League of Their Own? Did River Phoenix really grow into Harrison Ford? ). Saga. Forsythe. Rougon-Macquart. Ewing.
Anyhow. Wordless loner (Ryan Gosling, tattooed, laconic, but ultimately decent... except for the bank-robbing, of course, but hey, cosi fan tutti), who rides a motocross bike in an itinerant carnival, returns to Smallburg to re-commune with one-nighter Roma (looking appropriately used and more Hispanic than usual for this one, anemic almost; she evidently ballooned up for Hitch and then Ghost Rider where they had to strap her into those pencil skirts, swing of the somatic pendulum) to discover he's the father of little Lupita. At first struck dumb, he warms to the idea of fatherhood, succumbs to surges of responsibility, quits the mummer's life to settle into that of a moto repair guy living in a garage and funneling the odd sawbuck to Roma, who for her part doesn't trust his new leaf and continues to live with another guy, one who's shown bourgeoiserie from the get-go, Kofi (Mahershala Ali or the other way around... he signs both ways).
How, then, to come up with some jack in a hurry since it only dribs and drabbles in through the turn of wrench? Buddy Robbo (Ben Mendelsohn), a long-time moto guy and local burnout gots an idea: If you don't get greedy, can rob banks regularly and make it pay. Sure enough, with Ben driving a panel truck to hide the getaway bike and Luke summing the silver, they pull off a series of small-scale robberies, leaving the poh-lice nonetheless (or therefore) baffled by the "motocross bandit." Still, Roma won't take the money. Meanwhile, Robbo decides Luke's getting greedy. Poof! Is that the sound of a welding torch be lit? No matter. Luke decides on one last score. This time, though, brandest-new cop on the force Avery (Bradley Cooper) falls in on the chase. Dumping his bike, Luke busts into a local house, barricades himself in an upper-story bedroom, hunkers down puffing and reflective as the footfalls of Pursuit sound on the staircase. There's a shootout, on the consequences of which superstraight cop Avery will nourish himself and his career for time to come till, under the tutelage of some cops who've migrated to the Dark Side (Liotta, of course... Jeez, I'd pay double to watch a flick where that quite capable guy gets to be on the good side), he begins to feel the nibble he, too, his own self of Corruption. End of Part I.
Fifteen Years Later, the screen piously announces, and Avery pops up candidate for the office of District Attorney, separated evidently from the wife, who with the remorseless acuity of fee-males, has spotted the change in him and bailed out, but dragooned her ex now into harboring under his despicably affluent roof young Flemish, his unshorn, sinuous-lipped son, a sulky truant who slouches his way through his first days at Local High where--quelle coiniky-dinky!--he acquires first the acquaintance, then the friendship of young Jason, the equally unshorn, similarly sinuous-lipped son of Luke, now him, too, a sulky adolescent, potty-mouthed and drug-addled of the same persuasion. So, how's this gonna work out? Down the generations, Retribution? Reconciliation? Absolution? Resolution, at least? Whaaa? Or, hey... how about None of the Above and instead an incomprehensible Hollywood Outcome where nothing get decided and all that is solid melt away into thin air while the poor schlub initially bound to cough up ten bucks to watch this pabulum walks out beneath the additional burden of fetch up a dénouement his own self while Left-Coast writers and Arts & Culture Section critics conspire to attribute to this thing Weight. When Bradley Cooper shaved that three-day beard, he shaved off his edge, Lord love him. Shaved two hours off my life, too.