Review: Moody 'Pines' is too self-serious
This film image released by Focus Features shows Ryan Gosling in "The Place Beyond the Pines." (AP Photo/Focus Features, Atsushi Nishijima)
The first image you see in "The Place Beyond the Pines" is of Ryan Gosling's shirtless torso, ripped and tatted atop a skin-tight pair of leather pants.
Don't get too excited. The long tracking shot that comes next is actually a better indication of where director and co-writer Derek Cianfrance is headed.
His camera follows Gosling's character from behind, Dardennes-style, through a garishly lighted traveling circus. Gosling's bleach-blonde "Handsome Luke" lights a cigarette and strides calmly but purposefully through his depressing surroundings into a loud and crowded tent, where he confidently climbs onto a motorcycle before entering a ball-shaped cage with two other riders to perform a death-defying stunt.
This film image released by Focus Features shows Eva Mendes in "The Place Beyond the Pines." (AP Photo/Focus Features, Atsushi Nishijima)
Over the next two-plus hours and across three connected stories, it will become clear that everything is very dramatic and everyone is doomed. You can try to redeem yourself but it's no use; the past always catches up with us. Not a terribly novel concept but one that Cianfrance and co-writers Ben Coccio and Darius Marder hammer home with the utmost seriousness.
Gosling previously worked with the director on the 2010 drama "Blue Valentine," in which he played the husband in a young married couple (opposite an Oscar-nominated Michelle Williams) that was slowly, irreparably crumbling. That story also that was fraught with heartache but we actually felt something because the characters were complex and real and their relationship was vividly detailed.