Back in 2012, I felt like many film critics did about The Place Beyond The Pines, “ambitious to a fault.” Something was amiss seeing the crime epic in the theaters, but I gave it another watch after noticing it is available on Netflix. I am blown away after rewatching the movie. It has slid into my top ten favorite neo-noirs of all time, so if you felt like I did in 2012, I highly recommend a rewatch. Here are four reasons to rewatch The Place Beyond The Pines, now streaming on Netflix.
*Spoilers ahead, Duh*
Point of View Pivot
A pivot in perspective is a gamble for any filmmaker. The Place Beyond The Pines doesn’t pivot just once but three times. The movie shifts from Luke Glanton, Ryan Gosling’s character to Avery Cross, Bradley Cooper’s character, to their two sons in the final act. We have a single character conditioning from watching countless films that follow that formula. Part of the reason for that is we want to see our movie stars the entire duration of a movie. 2012 is arguably the peak of Ryan Gosling’s popularity, so it did not resonate with audiences to see him killed off in the first act of the movie. However, whatever flaws I saw back in 2012 were gone this time around, and I was able to appreciate the beauty of the change in point of view. Although we follow a different character through each act, there is a consistency of storylines and themes that transcend all four points-of-view creating a more compelling point of view structure. All great films break formulas and test our conditioning as viewers. This movie does it well.
Derek Cianfrance visual parallels between Luke Glanton and his son, Jason, creates a striking reflection of how children are often a reflection of their parents’ past. The ripple effect of history caused by the decisions we make echo generations. This thought is the centerpiece of the film displayed through Cianfrance’s beautiful long follow shots and the use of identical settings and blocking. The color of the film is grainy, dark and saturated, adding to the neo-noir grittiness of Northeastern town that feels somewhat left behind in history. The story takes place in two different eras separated by fifteen years, yet both feel like the same place in time. The parallels in the story are complemented by stunning visuals.
I believe audiences didn’t appreciate the exceptional performances because of costume and makeup design decisions. People had a hard time accepting Ryan Gosling’s tattoos, including one on his face or Eva Mendes’s white hair and wrinkly face in the third act when Bradley Cooper somehow didn’t seem to age a day. Once you let go of these innocent discrepancies, you appreciate how great the acting is. All three stars give solid performances, supported by knock-out performances by Ben Mendelsohn, Dane DeHaan, Ray Liotta, and Mahershala Ali, to name a few.
I read a recent GQ nod to the film that states, “the movie about two bad dad’s is on Netflix now.” Many critics similarly view the film focusing on the consequence of the fathers. Yes, the two dads are not the best of people, but neither one is inherently bad nor good; this is what makes noir a compelling genre. At its core, the movie is a crime story with all the elements of a great noir. A criminal living on the edge of society committing crimes for a worthy reason, check. Corrupt police exposed in a corruption scandal, check. Complicated romances destroyed by violence, check. To focus on just the “bad dad’s” storyline is to miss how exceptional of a genre film The Place Beyond The Pines is.
Rewind, rewatch and please tell me your thoughts.