Monday, April 08, 2013

Travelin' man mini-review of "The Place Beyond the Pines"

I haven't forgotten the implied promise in my previous post to continue a discussion of "Big Dumb Movies." For the last couple of weeks I've been in Family mode, accompanying my daughter on a series of college tours ranging from New Orleans up to New York, and haven't had the time or energy for a Big Think post. (Actually I'm considering a Big Think post about college tours before I get back to BDM, but we'll see.) However, after seeing Rachel off on her way back to LA yesterday (I'm continuing my own trip further up New England to do some location research for my upcoming YA novel), I caught a movie last night, and want to share a few quick thoughts about it.

The movie was "The Place Beyond the Pines," and while it has a lot to recommend it superficially -- great filmmaking technique, an interesting and underused location (upstate New York) -- it is, ultimately, a pretty weak, if not outright bad, movie pretending to be A Film.

Take away the directorial grandstanding, the big name male leads, and the unusual location, and what you're left with is a remarkably vapid, ill-conceived cliche of a story that relies almost entirely on a ridiculous coincidence and undeveloped character moves to create one momentary dramatic crisis that seems completely unattached to anything else in what's come before. Plot lines are introduced only to be abandoned almost instantly, moral questions are raised and left to dangle without any development, characters appear and disappear and do things that don't matter but are convenient for the plot, an entire story arc is introduced without any credible character underpinnings --

It's a mess.

What astonishes me is that this is a well-reviewed film by a supposedly "serious" film maker, with a script that wouldn't pass muster for an episode of Pretty Little Liars.


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