Written by: Derek Ciafrance, Ben Coccio, Darius Marder
Directed by: Derek Ciafrance
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Rose Byrn
Worth: 2 and a half hours, cost of rental, theater price
Clairometer: Jenny Curran
The first thing to say in describing this movie is: BRACE YOURSELF. I told my best friend to see it because it was fantastic. She called me crying and nauseated and with an hour left to go. Derek Ciafrance is known for the reality of life hitting you in the face and usually upsetting your stomach. Blue Valentine (another one of his films) still gives me bad feelings. But both films (more so The Place Beyond the Pines) are incredible. Yet at the same time, I will be fine to never watch it ever again.
It is difficult to describe what makes this movie so good without giving twists away. It comes full circle. I hate the critic's quote in the center of the poster above. Yes it is riveting, but it is so much more than a crime drama. It's about love, poverty, wealth, politics, and family. It beautifully juxtaposes two families: one with wealth and one in poverty. But how does each father provide for his family? Where are his priorities? How much does a father influence a son in parenting his own son? Are our fates unavoidable in life?
As I said, I did not set my best friend's expectations appropriately, so allow me to not make that mistake twice. Expect to be depressed. Expect to feel ill and thankful you can return to your own monotonous life. Expect to be disappointed. You'll be hoping that plot points are dreams or a figment of the characters' imaginations. But recall what I said, the writer/director deals in extreme reality. The timing is linear. Be mindful of this. Don't miss the essence of the film by hoping things will get better. They don't. Analyze the film in the way your college English professor taught you. Focus on the themes, the metaphors and the tone. Try to think while you're watching, the ways in which those "literary" elements contribute to Ciafrance's dark grasp on reality. But keep in mind, you'll want to eat ice cream and watch something goofy afterwards (I recommend an episode of Community).