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The Place Beyond the Pines

The Place Beyond the Pines film posterSynopsis

Starring Ryan Gosling as Luke, a motorcyclist stuntman and bank robber, and Bradley Cooper, as Avery a police officer and aspiring lawyer.  Ryan Gosling has a child, Jason, by Romina (Eva Mendes) and tries to provide for him by robbing banks.  On one robbery he is chased and shot by Avery, what will happen?  Avery is contacted by corrupt cop Ray Liotta who finds the robbery money in Eva Mendes’ house.  We then jump fifteen years to where the son of Avery (Bradley Cooper) is bad and the son of Luke (Ryan Gosling) is impressionable.  There is a confrontation between Jason and Avery.  Will it end well?

Review

Ryan Gosling is supposed to be the big star at the moment, he’s certainly cornered the motoring and motorcycling roles.  He seems to have James Dean’s ability to root a presence and its mood and let those around him respond to this.  I’m impervious to his supposed acting charisma though I was intermittently sympathetic with him as the failed husband in Blue Valentine.  In this film, he’s the confused drifter looking in at domestic bliss as he watches the christening of his boy, reminding us of Glenn Close looking in at unachievable happiness in Fatal Attraction.  Bradley Cooper is watchable as the ambitious cop (with the inevitable legal bigwig of a father whom he must please).  Romina’s new partner is the predictably nice and bland Mr Reliable in contrast to the feckless Luke.  Ray Liotta is convincingly menacing as the corrupt cop, scarily alert to imagined belittlements, the controlling bully.

There are creaking implausibilities in this film.  Would it really be so easy for Luke to rob banks by just walking in with a sack?  Given today’s technology I doubt this would be possible.  Wouldn’t the perspex screens afford more convincing protection to the bank clerks?  Wouldn’t all the banks be on the alert after his first robbery?  He expertly speeds off on his motorbike, so wouldn’t his stuntman job make him a prime suspect?  Was his accomplice caught, if not, then how did Avery know he was Luke’s friend?  Avery eventually deals with the corrupt Ray Liotta but what was he doing with these bad cops in the first place given his career aspirations and ethical concerns?  Avery’s confrontation with Jason looks very contrived, an enactment of attempted revenge for the killing of his father by Avery who is guilt ridden and seeks absolution.  I think this is meant to be a sort of resolution as he finds his spiritual father.  The two sons are prodigal sons who suffer for the sins of their fathers.  This becomes all rather biblical, the predictable binary of good father/bad son, bad father/good son.  This is very neat and dramatically absorbing but it has an ultimately unconvincing symmetry to it, it’s too black and white.  As usual in such crime dramas, women take stereotypically passive and suffering roles. They are either single mothers trying to make a living or decoratively beautiful wives always amenable to the requirements of the male ego.  Watchable but badly flawed.

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Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook

Synopsis

Pat (Bradley Cooper) is bipolar, released from hospital to live with parent Pat (Robert de Niro) unemployed (a bookie) and mother Jacki Weaver.  He studies literature to get back with wife Nikki who has a restraining order on him.  Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a widow.  He asks Tiffany to give a letter to Nikki but Tiff insists he must learn to dance.  Pat goes to an “Eagles” football game and is arrested.  Tiffany tells Pat Snr she can be lucky for him so if “Eagles” win and Pat and Tiffany get at least 5 out of 10 in dance competition he will win money he lost to a gambling associate.  Is everybody happy at last…?

Criticism

This is a lightweight rom-com that pretends it isn’t, it wants to be about mental illness.  Silver Lining’s idea of mental illness is people shouting at each other, and they do it a lot in this film.  Seemingly, the only way people can be cured of their illness is if they go through the plot predictabilities of a rom-com.  I have been told the novel it comes from is darker than this feel good romp.  When Pat jogs he wears a black bin liner, I’ve been told there is a reason for this but it looks to me like laughter at the expense of the mentally ill, wearing a bin liner is just the kind of thing they do, right?  It seems that a reassuringly happy ending for a romance is just the ticket to heal bipolar illness.

Robert de Niro as Pat Snr does a lot of actorish shouting which is not really anger but shows us how endearingly quirky he is.  By the way, he is obsessive compulsive and this adds to his comic appeal, right?  Tiffany is of course sharp and feisty, her own mental disorders as played by Jennifer Lawrence, look like a fashion accessory and this should make us uneasy.  Pat reads books as a way of getting back with his wife Nikki.  One of the truly funny moments is when she dismisses Lord of the Flies as a bunch of nasty kids who pick on a well meaning fat kid, then she tosses the book out of the door.  For those who like the now fashionable ballroom dancing, the dance scenes are funny.  There’s also some Adam Sandler type humour at the expense of racists before the “Eagles” game, but the rare funny moments do not compensate for the rom-com platitudes.

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2013 in At the cinema, Film Reviews

 

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Limitless

Synopsis

Starring Bradley Cooper as a failed writer who is given an intellect and mind enhancing drug by his brother in law.  He develops great intellectual powers and visits this brother in law who has been murdered.  He takes the drugs and uses them to get into high finance under Robert de Niro’s mentorship.  He is pursued by someone from a rival outfit who also uses this drug.  His girlfriend is pursued and escapes by using the wonder drug.  Bradley has sex with a women  who is murdered and he may be the murderer.  He owes money to a Russian gangster who takes the drug and pursues Bradley for more.  Bradley gets the better of him and then outwits de Niro.  Bradley takes regular doses of the wonderdrug and escapes the fatal fate of the other users.  He becomes a senator.

Review

A pretty daft film which is good fun.  It’s a bit like that John Trevolta film where he becomes very intelligent, and it is also of course a familiar sci-fi story: the Faustian pact with the devil and all that.  It’s also a reminder of Gremlins and Spiderman; be careful with that gift, use it responsibly for the common good.  This is supposed to express good old American precepts: that good fortune, happiness, money, and any other success should all be earned and not be a matter of luck.  If these wonders are given, you have a great responsibilty, if you use it for self gain you will perish.  It’s also a reworking of the Midas myth.  It’s a part of our folk wisdom, the desire for something is inherently good in itself but the ending of desire is simple minded satiety.  Any wish must stay unsatisfied  in order to promote striving and challenge, its fulfilment must be judiciously spared and be a platform for further effort, if not, it leads to the evil of moral deregulation or self cannibalism in a weary self disgust.  In this story our hero never stops learning and he delights in his powers so he doesn’t do the decent thing and die.  There is no domestication of super talents as in the TV series Heroes, this guy can live with his luck.  In his case there are no consequences, we remember Samuel L Jackson lecturing that global base jumper on the consequences he must pay for.

The voice of striving humanity’s efforts is supplied by de Niro who lectures Bradley on the need for effort and the overcoming of obstacles to appreciate one’s success. This is pretty rich coming from an overly powerful business moghul.

There are implausibilities in the plot: when Bradley’s would-be Russian nemesis catches up with him, he is on the superdrug yet Bradley is not, so the Russian criminal should be able to outwit Bradley, but he can’t.  Did Bradley murder the woman during his blackout?  He hires a lawyer who comes up with weak circumstantial evidence and he gets him off.  What happened, did he kill her?  It’s a bit like Adjustment Bureau in that it turns New York into a cinematic base jumping contest.  Are New Yorkers getting the message that they must ‘touch the hero within themselves’ in order to rise above paranoia about terrorism?  Is computerised cinema just getting too impatient with the industrial constraints on our lives?  Maybe they’re trying to turn the 21st century cityscape into a drugrush because we can’t hope to reach the millions of stories in the human hive.  I’ll settle for endless stories without hi-tech gimmicks, please.

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2011 in At the cinema, Film Reviews

 

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