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The Place Beyond the Pines

Writer-director Derek Cianfrance, who entered prominence with his Oscar-nominated Blue Valentine, claims to have written (with his collaborators Ben Coccio and Darius Marder) 37 drafts of the script for his follow-up film. That’s not hard to believe, as The Place Beyond the Pines plays like a story that has been labored to death.

Actually it’s three stories, connected and presented sequentially (the film runs two hours and twenty minutes). The first centers on Luke (Ryan Gosling, who needs to stop spending so much time at the gym), who makes a living doing motorcycle stunts with a traveling carnival. Returning to a town they had visited the previous summer (the film is set in and around Schenectady), he learns that a woman with whom he had had a fling has had his son. This is for him a life-changing discovery, as he quits his job and determines to make of them a family, even though she’s getting married to another man.

The second story involves a cop (Bradley Cooper) who tries to turn an act o accidental heroism into a political career. The final thread involves the sons of both men, meeting as troubled high school students.

Like a cable television drama, The Place Beyond the Pines is filled with incident that sometimes seems to be there only for the sake of filling time, or because the writer is too enamoured of it to trim it away. It is moodily filmed and played (too much so in the case of Gosling, who could have used more dialogue and less time standing around sulkily smoking cigarettes), and it’s never boring. But in the end it’s hard to say what the point of it all is, other than that a man’s lot is a hard life.

Watch the trailer for The Place Beyond the Pines

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