Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Place Beyond the Pines and 42

You Talkin' to Me?

Review by Ken Burke         The Place Beyond the Pines

A fascinating character study of two conflicted fathers and their equally troubled sons trying to find stability in situations that push all of them to their emotional limits.

A moving biography of the brave athlete who finally broke the color barrier in Major League baseball despite the vicious racism that he faced in challenging the status quo.

In watching Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond the Pines (a marvelously enigmatic title, given how indirectly it connects with specific events of the film by referring just to the English translation of the Mohawk designation for Schenectady, NY where the action occurs) you might be fascinated with the dual protagonists story that interweaves a lot of fascinating plot points and probes some interesting ethical questions or you might be put off by what could easily be understood as a cluster of artificially-imposed narrative coincidences that make for an artful structure but are too precious in their plotting to not feel distractingly artificial.  (Although, when you think about it, most stories are constructed in an artificial manner in order to bring about necessary dramatic conflict and eventual closure:  How likely is it that a millionaire newspaper publisher would chance upon a poor, fetching (but untalented) songstress just when he needs some spark in his personal life, yet his ego-driven attraction to her will then lead to his personal and political downfall?  But without this needed situation of hubris-gone-too-far-to-control we wouldn’t have the Shakespearian [himself a master of unlikely but tremendously effective plot twists] overtones of Citizen Kane [Orson Welles, 1941], which would just be a long, lonely story of a man never realizing his true potential, even if he had gotten elected Governor of New York.  How likely is it that a major mobster would have a son who rejects the family/”family” business to become a war hero but then to protect his father turns into a more ruthless criminal than his Dad ever was?  Yet, without that tragic dramatic arc you wouldn’t have the power of The Godfather saga [Francis Ford Coppola, 1972, 1974, 1990], just generations of hoods killing each other for territorial control.  How likely is it that a young man vastly undereducated in traditional cultural knowledge would happen onto a series of questions on a televised game show with a huge prize that he would know the answers to only because each one related to a traumatic incident in his life?  Of course, without such a string of lucky connections socially-marginal Jamal’s [Dev Patel] fate in Slumdog Millionaire [Danny Boyle, 2008] would probably have been as humdrum and hopeless as what would happen in independent films about the socially-marginal, yet even there something dramatic usually occurs to entangle the plot, as with the classic version of such situations in Bicycle Thieves [Vittorio De Sica, 1948].)  Assuming that you can accept the unlikely-but-still-dramatically-powerful plot contrivances that drive (so to speak, in a film where motorcycles play an important role) The Place Beyond the Pines I think you’ll find a haunting, satisfying exploration into the lives of two surface-distinct-but-internally-similar men and the families that they pull along into their chaotic rides through life in upper New York state.  To fully appreciate it, though, you need to know that the actual unraveling of the plot results in a different telling than what the previews imply so read no further beyond this SPOILER ALERT (the likelihood of which I hope you’d be aware of from our Two Guys home page ground rules, but in this case I really want to spare you a fundamental revelation about this film if you’d rather wait until you can see it for yourself, although I’ll note that other reviewers have been more cavalier with divulging the plot’s structure so my concerns may be just a case of too little too late, even as I stand by them for the benefit of those who may be intrigued by the possibilities of this film but haven’t read all that much about it yet).  With that in mind for the rest of this portion of the review until you get to the comments on 42, please read on or skip down as you wish.

Assuming you’re still with me, the fundamental revelation of which I speak is that the two primary male characters—motorcycle master and aspiring-but-essentially-unfit father, Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling), and cop-turned-District Attorney-turned-seeker-of-higher-office Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper)—don’t interact throughout this film but instead share just one quick scene where Luke is attempting to hide out in a neighborhood house after a botched bank robbery but is confronted by Officer Avery who fires (he claims in self-defense but we’re later given reason to question this) on Luke, resulting in the latter’s death.  So, essentially this is a situation of two almost-separate stories welded together by a single traumatic incident, with each main character given about an hour of the film’s total run time.  That ultimately makes it more intriguing than you might initially expect, but if you’re looking for a latter-day major-male-stars-in-action-film-costarring-roles-experience (as with what you were hyped to see in Michael Mann’s 1995 Heat with cop Al Pacino and crook Robert De Niro) you won’t get what you came for in The Place Beyond the Pines because the two are on screen together for about a minute before wounded Luke falls through a second-story window to his bloody death.  (You don’t get much Italian actor-god togetherness in Heat, either, as those two characters have only one notable scene together, although it’s of much more dramatic depth and significance than the “rapid-fire” encounter between Luke and Avery; if you’d like to watch this 6 min. encounter from Heat, here it is at where it’s claimed that just as they never had any on-screen connection in The Godfather: Part II [they couldn’t have, as De Niro played the young Vito Corleone, Michael’s father, so that the son was only a young child in any scene in which he appeared with the emerging “boss of bosses”] they weren’t even on the set at the same time for Heat because the entire scene is shot as angle-reverse angle cinematic ping pong so each part could easily have been filmed at separate times.  That wouldn’t explain the two-shot above but it  could have been constructed in post-production as well and I don’t have immediate access to a full version of the scene so I’ll leave that for you to ponder when you’re not contemplating the complex characters that inhabit northern New York in The Place Beyond the Pines).

Even on his own, though, Luke is a very compelling character, a minor-league Evil Knievel whose traveling-carnival motorcycle stunts are emblematic of his roving lifestyle (our introduction to him as he puts his driving clothes over his heavily-tattooed body and then walks through the carny midway with his back to us in a loooong traveling shot is reminiscent of the beginning of Goodfellas [Martin Scorsese, 1990; take a look if you like at a clip from that film at] as it conveys all we need to know about his sense of self-confident independence) until his troupe returns to Schenectady (a large but not particularly exciting place—sorry, local residents—where the ever-marvelous Nina and I spent a couple of nights at a cheap motel in 2009 when attending Oakland A’s superstar Rickey Henderson’s induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame [it was a bit of a drive each way but the motel was a lot more affordable than anything close to Cooperstown—Nina and I also wandered over to White Lake/Bethel on that trip to see the site of the original Woodstock Festival, although we got there 40 years too late (I was surprised to see that some of the acts weren’t still waiting to get on stage)]), where he’s surprised to find old-flame Romina (Eva Mendes) is now the mother of his child (“Why didn’t you tell me?” “Why did you leave and never contact me again?”) which stimulates his fatherhood inclinations even though she’s already living with Kofi (Mahershala Ali), a guy who’s not too interested in Luke’s late-awareness paternity passion just as Romina’s not that interested in Luke’s minimal financial state.  Luke’s not to be denied, though, so he quits the carnival to hang around the area, then teams up with Robin (Ben Mendelsohn)—the guy who’s given him a small-time mechanic’s job at an auto repair shop—to rob local banks (“Not since Hall and Oates has there been such a team” says Robin, which, given that duo’s rather short career arc may be more prophetic than intended; at least he was clever enough to realize not to compare them to Batman and Robin).  Athletic Luke (lithe and quick, he could have learned some good base-stealing tactics from Rickey [more baseball and extensive references to another Rickey to come later in the review] just as he learns to be an intimidating, efficient bank robber from Robin [although the first time leaves him nervous enough to puke as he’s leaving the job], pulling daring escapes where he rides his bike into Robin’s panel truck, then they drive off in the other direction from the pursuing police) wins back Romina’s interest with his lavish gifts for the baby and his genuine care for his new family unit.  After Luke and Kofi clash, though, forcing Robin to bail his partner out of jail he decides to put the brakes on Luke’s ambitions (so to speak) by destroying his bike (at one point earlier Robin had warned him, “If you gonna ride like lightning you’re gonna crash like thunder”), but all that does is compel Luke to try another robbery on his own with a clearly inferior motorcycle which leads to getaway problems that finally put him in conflict with Avery, essentially closing Luke’s story and pulling us into Avery’s, a decent guy just trying to be an honest law-enforcer in a corrupt police force, with further trauma from the guilt he’s carrying for killing Luke when he finds out that both of them were parallel dads with very young sons.

Avery soon finds other problems to confront as his cop buddies (led by Deluca [Ray Liotta, in a brief but effective scumbag role]) raid Romina’s place, certain they’ll find money from one of Luke’s robberies.  They do (it’s concealed poorly, wrapped in aluminum foil and hidden under the mattress in the baby’s crib), but they’re not interested in an arrest, just the cash for themselves and Avery.  Eventually, he gets his moral confusion into enough of a boil to report the miscarriage of justice to his superior but to no avail, as busting his own cops is the last thing Chief Weirzbowski (Robert Clohessy) wants to do.  In desperation, Avery turns to his retired-NY-Supreme-Court-Judge father, Al Cross (Harris Yulin), for advice who helps him set up a sting on his now-dangerous cop colleagues, leading to a newsworthy bust.  15 years later Avery has a law degree, a job as a District Attorney, and a campaign in full swing for state Attorney General.  The only blemishes on his spotless record are a split from his wife and his son’s, A.J. (Emory Cohen), drug problems, so he takes the teenager into his lavish home in Schenectady, but this is where the concocted coincidences really take hold because when A.J. enters the local high school who does he buddy up with but Jason (Dane DeHaan), Luke’s son, who doesn’t know his own heritage but is well-known to Avery, who insists that A.J. steer clear of him.  As with any meaningful exchange between fathers and sons, not only does A.J. quickly become a doping buddy with Jason he also invites him to a wild party at his father’s mansion while Lawman Dad is out on the campaign trail.  Needless to say, things turn hostile when Jason (on the right in the photo below) finally finds out from Kofi what his real leniage is, leading to an assault on A.J. and what starts as a kidnapping prelude to an intended murder of Avery in the woods before Avery offers a remorseful apology to Jason, so he just steals the car and vanishes into thin air.  Avery manages to rise above the minor scandal of the bacchanal that led to the assault on his son, eventually winning the A.G. job as the now-reformed (maybe) A.J. joins him on the victory stage, while far away from this well-lit scene Jason buys a motorcycle and rides west on his road to freedom, as far as possible from this haunted place not very far beyond the surrounding pines.

As I said earlier, you have to be willing to flow with the imposed narrative coincidences in this film because the whole situation of the two teenage boys meeting, leading to the inevitable conflict between Jason and the Cross family, is a far-fetched contrivance that will either take you out of the dramatic possibilities of this tale or will allow you to appreciate the inter-generational conflicts here, as a group of damaged males who are young (Luke and Avery in the first story), then older (Avery dealing with the various difficulties in his life that keep pulling him away from any clean approach to what law enforcement may be all about—especially in scenes with the Internal Affairs investigator Scott [Gabe Fazio] and the police psychologist who seem more concerned with protecting the image of the cops than with true rehabilitation of Avery after the traumatic experience of killing Luke, as well as the later circumstances where a colleague tries to use him to help his own investigation rather than following procedure), then even younger than in the first stories (A.J. and Jason, both estranged from a father’s nurturance as one has been too career-consumed to even understand what’s bothering his son and the other is removed from the reality of the boy’s life, explained as the victim of a car crash with no truth about his criminal career) try desperately to make sense of lives that seem to reject their very existence, no matter the unconventional skills that they may bring to their various challenges.  Gosling, Cooper, Cohen, and DeHaan are all excellent in their performances, with terrific supporting players throughout all aspects of the story, especially Mendes who tries desperately to rise above her attraction to unintentionally-toxic Luke but continues to be beaten down because of it.  In their various ways, all of these characters are beaten down—either because their self-image ultimately exceeds their capacities (Luke), their ideals clash too much with the society they have to navigate through which has little respect for their needs (Avery, Jason, Romina, Kofi), they have no sense of a moral compass (A.J.), or they just have little ambition beyond the easy payday (Robin, Deluca and his fellow cops).  Only the few scorched by the legal system but still determined to have it mean something useful (Judge Al and I.A. hardass Scott) can see any hope for these wanderers, but their screen time and impact on the stories are very limited; most of these characters seem to live more by the philosophy of Detective Visser (M. Emmett Walsh) in Blood Simple (Joel Coen, 1984): “But what I know about is Texas [or in this case, New York], an’ down here … you’re on your own.”  (Having lived that life in the Lone Star State for many a year, I’ve rarely heard a more accurate statement in any form of fictional dialogue.)  Overall, Cianfrance’s film is a sad look at human limitations and miseries, unfolding in a manner that evokes more melodramatic genre works without getting stuck at that level.  As it finishes up, with Jason displaying his genetic heritage by jumping on a motorcycle for seemingly the first time but easily riding away into the wilderness I can’t think of a more appropriate musical metaphor to finish off this part of the review than a classic by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at (recorded live in London in 2009 [maybe I heard echoes of it across “the pond” while I was visiting the Woodstock grounds], with the song originally on the 1975 Born to Run album).

If there’s one guy who wasn’t born to run (from trouble, that is, but he was a great sprinter on the base paths) it was legendary Jackie Robinson, now featured on film in Brian Helgeland’s 42, which provides a condensed look at this celebrated athlete and cultural hero (as well as target for the racist scumbags of his time), but only in the 2 years leading up to his Major League rookie season and the 1947 campaign itself which culminated in the National League Championship for his Brooklyn Dodgers, helped greatly by Robinson’s skills.  By chance, Nina and I saw it during the afternoon of April 15, which I had forgotten was Jackie Robinson Day throughout the Majors (I wondered until later why there was such a crowd at the theatre on an early Monday afternoon; then that night we got to watch a televised game of my beloved Oakland A’s beating the Houston Astros, with everyone wearing 42 that night in honor of Robinson, just as his number is now retired on the wall of every major league stadium in the sport.  [How ironic can you get, with the team just 50 miles up Interstate 45 from my childhood/adolescent home in Galveston being walloped 11-2 by the team of my new home in Northern California (Giants? What Giants? Aren’t they still in New York?)]) in celebration of his debut with the Dodgers on that date in 1947 (so he was preparing for his impactful entrance into the previously-Whites-only domain of professional baseball about the time I was getting conceived; I wonder how many degrees of separation that is—well, in actuality, none because he was too faithful to his wife, Rachel [played in the current movie by Nicole Beharie], to have diddled around with my Mama, even if he had had any interest in an interracial fling [which I’m sure he didn’t] and because my DNA tests show only 9% of my heritage being outside of various European aspects [my sliver of diversity is Native American, but, sadly, not enough specifics in the data base to know which tribe], so I’ll just have to respect him for his many triumphs without trying to claim any further connection than irrelevant parallel chronology).

Certainly this movie is essentially about the difficulties and triumphs of Robinson (played here very successfully in both character elaboration and on-field skills by relative newcomer Chadwick Boseman [new to the big screen but he’s got a lot of prior TV work]) in breaking out of the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues (no shame in playing there or implication of lesser talent, just the racist realities of many decades of the “national pastime” not allowing African-American players entrance to the officially-recognized Major Leagues) into the arena that his talents called for (you certainly don’t get to be Rookie of the Year, as Robinson did in 1947, out of public sympathy when your record on the field has to defend your award), but it also devotes a lot of screen time to Dodgers’ President and General Manager Branch Rickey who made the fateful decision, somewhat out of a sense of what he saw as needed social justice and somewhat as a business decision to help improve his team and thereby sell more tickets (as noted in his phrase that’s often used to explain some of the motivation for being more inclusive in a capitalist society, “Every dollar is green.”).  As inhabited by Harrison Ford, Rickey comes across as an exaggerated character, a guy who’s life I know a little bit but not one I’ve ever seen footage of nor read about so whether he really talked in such cartoonish language and projected such a comical personality, I don’t know.  (He reminds me of the old Warner Brothers pompous rooster character, Foghorn Leghorn, except that big bird was a stereotypical Southerner, so if we were going to translate this whole history lesson into old-school animation Foghorn would need to be one of the “good ol’ boys” who didn’t “cotton” to that “colored guy” [not their term at all, but I’ll pass on repeating what is yelled at Robinson constantly by opponents in the movie—reflecting the actual overt attacks, verbal and physical, that he endured as he refused to seek retaliation for such abuse], such as the Dodgers’ “Dixie” Walker [Ryan Merriman] or the St. Louis Cardinals’ Enos “Country” Slaughter [David Thoms, seen briefly here intentionally spiking Jackie in a vicious manner].)  Were this not such a meaningful story for American history—social, cultural, and sporting—I think that such a depiction would be distracting, even if based on an accurate rendering of the man, but the whole experience is so startling today, with the “Whites Only” signs on Southern restrooms and the blatant degradation and segregation shown to Robinson, even in the “brotherly love” city of Philadelphia, that Rickey may come across at times as a vaudeville performer but his outsize personality fits in comfortably with the other absurdities of the day, not all of which have fully receded into the fabled dustbin of history.

While Mr. Rickey, as everyone called him because such was the prestige of a powerful person and personality in that era (much more formal than our casual-Fridays-and-name-familiarity society), was an essential bulwark in Robinson’s professional life his personal strength was constantly reinforced by his assertive-to-the-point-of-defiance wife, Rachel (in fact, her defiance of Florida restroom protocol gets her and Jackie bumped off their airplane to his Spring Training site so they find themselves on an all-night bus trip), because as a 1940s Los Angeles woman and USC student (where she met 4-sport star Jackie) she wasn’t about to accept Jim Crow structures any more than he was, although he agreed in his pro-ball-call-up to endure more crap than any human should have to face so that his entire “race” (a useless word for differentiation where the biology of human beings is concerned, although a understood reference regarding imposed sociological distinctions) wouldn’t be demeaned as aggressive and uncivilized (although that’s exactly what his White detractors proved themselves to be).  Rachel is Jackie’s wife, spirit guide, and occasional hitting coach, played by Beharie with a fine combination of grace, wit, and indignation, as various circumstances require.  The real Rachel continued in public life in nursing and education after her husband’s retirement from baseball (in 1956, only a decade after his start in the Majors because he began as a 28 year-old “rookie”) and his much-too-young death at age 53 in Oct. 1972 (due to health problems and likely the burden of his public tolerance of racist intimidation in pre-Civil-Rights-era America), but here we see her only as a young woman, a new mother, and a fiercely-proud spouse of a man constantly trying to use his natural abilities to shut out the hostile rejection of those who experienced him only as unwanted in a culture built on bigotry, even in Northern cities because so many of the players on his and opposing teams were Southerners who had been raised to reject contact with, if not outright hate the sight of, Blacks in their proximity.

Ultimately, what 42 focuses on is how Robinson’s commendable skills on the field and determination to hold back his anger at the vicious taunts and treatment he received (from his own teammates at times, many of whom signed a petition before the start of the season refusing to be on a team with him—a tactic angrily rejected by manager Leo Durocher [Christopher Meloni]—and especially from Philadelphia Phillies’ manager Ben Chapman (Alan Tudyk), as vile a racist as you could ever imagine, spewing disgusting epithets at a public event in full view of everyone on the field and in the stands).  Such castigation of Robinson finally resulted in some of the Dodgers rallying around their teammate in respect for what he had to endure, especially Pee Wee Reese (Lucas Black), Eddie Stanky (Jesse Luken), and Ralph Branca (Hamish Linklater), proving that they weren’t totally “Dem Bums” after all.  Durocher would have been an assertive help as well, given that all he wanted to do was win games no matter who was helping him do it (he’s quoted, with the statement included in this movie, as saying in regard to Robinson, “I do not care if the guy is yellow or black, or if he has stripes like a f***in' zebra. I'm the manager of this team, and I say he plays. What's more, I say he can make us all rich. And if any of you cannot use the money, I will see that you are all traded." ["Dixie" Walker did ask for a trade after the 1947 season.]) had he not been suspended during Jackie’s first year as a Dodger for “moral reasons” regarding his fooling around with a Hollywood starlet (although the film clearly implies it was a move by Baseball Commissioner “Happy” Chandler [Peter Mackenzie] to further undermine the stability of the Brooklyn team in an attempt to force Rickey to give up on his racial integration experiment, while other accounts say the formal reason for the suspension was “association with known gamblers”).  So Robinson had to largely do it on his own because, while he could count on Branch and Rachel when they could be available to him, he was in the dugout with the Dodgers and on the field against opponents (in every sense of the word) on a daily basis, having to prove himself as a major leaguer in a sport where a return to the Minors looms over every non-performing Opening Day starter and as a man where he was required to rise above the insanity being constantly hurled at him without going insane himself.  In The Place Beyond the Pines all of the fictional male leads are trying to find the same type of personal stability—Avery and A.J. by embracing a sense of traditional societal normalcy and public acceptance despite their shortcomings (whatever Avery tells himself to maintain his reputation he always lives with the guilt that he shot first at Luke, possibly resulting in an unnecessary death; A.J.’s drug dependency was clearly a call for help from his too-absent father), Luke and Jason by resisting such norms in their quests for self-acceptance in a society unnerved by such individuality.  All of them yearned to not turn into T. S. Eliot’s “hollow men” (you can read the entire haunting 1925 poem at but instead, like Tracy Chapman (in “Fast Car,” from her 1988 self-named album and available for a listen at, to simply “be someone.”  Jackie Robinson yearned to “be someone” also, but—given his unique circumstances—not just for himself; in being placed in the unenviable position of being a hero to countless men, women, and children who savored his every triumph as justification for removing the social barriers that were rotting the souls of their nation and their individual lives, he carried a tremendous burden to be a savior for others but first he needed to save himself from the threat of falling to the level of his detractors, of simply meeting force with force in the subhuman manner that his enemies' antagonism would breed in a weaker man.  He truly did have “the guts to not fight back” in situations that constantly called for such a response, proving himself to “be someone” for the ages through the long, painful process that he endured as he, at first single-handedly, changed a long-standing American institution.

All in all, 42 is a very moving movie, one that gives an exceptional flavor of the time period (including opening newsreel footage of our country in 1945, on the one hand celebrating a victory over barbaric dictators who had used extermination tactics against people they considered “lesser beings,” yet on the other hand continuing to tolerate brutal segregation within our own borders) and allows you to see how dumpy even a revered baseball park such as Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field was by our modern standards with no electronic scoreboards, video displays, luxury boxes, garlic fries … or multi-million dollar salaries even for the top players, a much simpler (but overtly racist) world that I still have some childhood memories of that are really brought to life in the staging of this story.  Robinson played himself in a biography movie made during the height of his career (The Jackie Robinson Story, Alfred E. Green, 1950), which I’ve never seen but have read that he comes across as well on the screen as he did on the field; I certainly can’t say, then, that someone else could do a better job of performing the role of Robinson than he did on his own, but Boseman is marvelous here, balancing pride, anger, frustration, and a genuine desire to be respected for his accomplishments, not his groundbreaking social presence.  The baseball scenes play as authentic to my well-experienced eyes as a fan      (I certainly recognize the craziness that Robinson as a base runner causes for opposing pitchers with his nervous energy and tantalizing leads from the safety of a base, just as I saw the wonderful Rickey Henderson do with the A’s in the late ‘80s-early ‘90s, a skill surely learned by him from the lessons of Robinson), the triumph of decency over ignorance is easy to appreciate even if it does feel a bit preachy and melodramatic at times, and the genuine love of the sport as shown by both Robinson and Rickey comes across well on screen.  Even if you don’t know a back-door breaking ball from a “slerve” when the announcers are recapping every pitch and obscure statistic (about left-handed middle-relievers in late-June day games) I think you’d have a hard time not enjoying the chronicling of Jackie Robinson’s appropriately-honored triumphs in 42, an effective movie about social transformation and the overdue need for it, even when established mores would seem to dictate that “as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end” … but we don’t always have to shout an “Amen” to that; sometimes the appropriate response is “A Change is Gonna Come” as Sam Cooke reminded us, way back in 1964 and again here at  (Maybe better gun control will be the next change someday down the road [sorry, Texas homeboys, but my respect for the Second Amendment is decreasing on a daily basis].  What, you say I’m a dreamer?  Well, I’m not the only one, so if you want a finale how about this, at  Sweet dreams and harmonies to John, Yoko, and everyone else until next week, y’all.)

If you’d like to explore more of The Place Beyond the Pines here are some suggested links: (37:35 interview with director and co-writer Derek Cianfrance)

If you’d like to trot home and learn more about 42 here are some suggested links: (4:42 interview with actors Chadwick Boseman and Harrison Ford)

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By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile.    Ken

P.S.  Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.


  1. I stopped reading your Pines review at the spoiler alert thinking the references to Citizen Kane and The Godfather meant something great was waiting at the local Palladium. I found a movie that could have been a winner given the cast and production values, but in the end the script was a disappointment. This thing could have been written by a Freshman in your film class (realizing that you would have encouraged the aspiring screenwriter and he would be one of the few to benefit from your encyclopedic cinematic recollections while still receiving three hours of credit). With that said, it's clear the Coen Brothers often pulled off equally ridiculous plots, but then classics like Oh Brother benefit from a far superior starting point with works like Homer's The Odyssey lighting the way.

    I will say Pine's contrived plot had a few eerie parallels to the recent Boston Marathon tragedy. With due respect to the victims and the thousands impacted by the perpetrators, those guys were working off a warped script, much like Ryan Gosling's Luke, thinking they could terrorize and still go to school the next day, followed by car jacking because you had your car in the shop, unbelievable gunfights, car chases, running over brothers, and then nearly escaping by hiding in a boat. The army of police had to be clued in by the homeowner noticing blood on the tarp. I was almost expecting someone to turn into a frog followed by a dam break. Life is often stranger than fiction. I am glad we still have the freedom to move around freely and have cinema to provide a temporary escape from the real world.

  2. Hi rj, Damn! Am I going to have to refund your ticket money again? Obviously, we diverge on The Place Beyond the Pines, but it's always good to get your take on things and your parallels with the recent horrors in Boston are well stated. I share your embrace of our freedom and our escape valve with cinema (to wit, my next review will include Oblivion which is about as escapist as you can get).

    Keep those comments coming because they add nicely to the original. Maybe we'll be more in sync next time (I still find fascination with Pines, though, but remember that I started this whole enterprise by praising Melancholia so my tastes have been suspect from the beginning). Ken