CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS
"A riveting crime drama". "A brilliant, towering picture." "An exhilarating epic...." "Ryan Gosling is electric." These are the quotes that show up onscreen in the trailer for this new character piece: the film and its stars are getting fantastic reviews from all over. Why? Aside from the fact that it's a rare film aimed at grown up minds rather than teenage idiots, what's the appeal? It's long (141 minutes and change), it's completely humourless, and it's filled with unlikeable and unsympathetic characters. That's not too surprising: after all, it's a crime drama. But The Place Beyond The Pines is also being slightly spuriously marketed, as the trailer goes to great lengths to hide the fact that it's effectively three short stories bolted together, not one sprawling epic. Oh, and ladies: Ryan Gosling, supposedly The Buffest And Most Knicker-Dampening Hunk Ever To Walk God's Green Earth or some such ludicrous soubriquet, is only in the first of those three sections, and has been desexified to the level of a Klingon wino.
Gosling is a stunt biker in a travelling carnival who discovers that he fathered a child with Eva Mendes the last time he drifted through town: he immediately decides to settle down and help to raise the child (despite the fact that Mendes has a new relationship). With his only skillset being his biking abilities, he becomes a bank robber in partnership with scuzzy Ben Mendelsohn; tempted by too much easy money, he's careless, cornered and shot by cop Bradley Cooper. (That's the end of Gosling's onscreen involvement.) Cooper is now regarded as a hero but is forced into corruption by his colleagues, led by Ray Liotta. And years later, Cooper's son and Gosling and Mendes' son meet up at a rundown college....
Of the three sections, the middle one is the most successful because we're given a solid, fundamentally decent central character worth caring about (in Cooper). All you can do with Gosling is hope he's caught and stopped. Certainly you can pick up all the stuff about absent fathers and bad parenting: Gosling might have had good (if unreasonable) intentions, but awful ways of going about them, while Cooper ultimately chosen his career over his family. And in the end, are the teenage kids going to be better than their dads, especially given that one killed the other? However, it's devoid of humour, devoid of lightness and devoid of charm (especially Gosling's character): a glum and overlong dram about deeply unlovely people. I honestly don't get the appeal of it.