THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES, THE COMPANY YOU KEEP, EDDIE: THE SLEEPWALKING CANNIBAL



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The Place Beyond the Pines is a movie that is greater than the sum of its parts.  And there are three of them; parts, I mean.  And that’s probably the first thing you should know.  The writers Derek Cianfrance (who also directed), Ben Coccio and Darius Marder don’t really do that strong a job in preparing you for that so when the first part ends, you don’t really realize it’s just the first of three separate, but strongly connected stories and it can be a bit confusing for awhile until you figure it out (or unless you read reviews of the movie beforehand, which I didn’t).
The first part of the film concerns Ryan Gosling as a carnival motorcycle daredevil.  When he finds out he has a kid he never knew about, he does what anyone in his position would naturally do: he quits to become a bank robber.  Yes, it has about that much logic.  In fact, when the idea of robbing banks is presented to him, all you can think is, what could possibly go wrong with this plan; I mean, it’s genius, man, genius.  Actually, it is kind of.  The MO Gosling and his partner use is quite clever and they could have gotten away with it for a long time, until something happens that shouldn’t have.  But at the same time, this section is a bit too much been there, done that.   It’s a fairly typical story of a petty criminal that works out the way stories about petty criminals generally work out in movies like this.
In the second story, Bradley Cooper takes over as an ambitious police officer who brings Gosling down and Gosling is out of the picture (no, I’m not spoiling anything—I think you really, really need to know that Gosling is only in the movie for a short period; and my revealing it isn’t remotely the same thing as telling people that Janet Leigh gets killed off in the first part of Psycho—okay, maybe I shouldn’t have revealed that about Janet Leigh, but you get what I’m trying to say).  Anyway, this section is a bit more interesting, especially due to a cameo by Ray Liotto doing his psychotic bit as a dirty cop.  At the same time, I also think this section is a little off because it doesn’t focus on Cooper’s relationship with his son, which is basically what the movie as a whole is supposed to be about, fathers and sons.
Then there’s the third story in which the two sons of Gosling and Cooper (doe eyed, pouty Emory Cohen and sharp featured Dane DeHaan) meet and this section is deeply moving and powerful and almost makes the first two parts seem better than they are.  When the movie comes together here, it fills you with a sense of wonder and excitement as these two teenagers try to work out their fate without the benefit of knowing any of their true history, without the benefit of knowing they even have a fate.  We know so much that they don’t which gives their actions even more meaning than the characters realize they have.  And as the story works itself out in unexpected ways, there are times when the emotions are at times nearly overwhelming.
Early on in the movie The Company You Keep, Susan Sarandon, as a former domestic terrorist now in custody, tells ambitious reporter Shia LaBeouf that he is younger than she expected.  When he thanks her, she says it wasn’t a compliment.  In the same way, The Company You Keep is the Argo of this year.  Before Ben Affleck says thank you, it’s not a compliment.  There’s nothing that wrong with The Company You Keep except that the best thing you can say about it is that there’s nothing that wrong with it.  It’s entertaining enough and rarely boring.  But like Argo, it’s a movie that never really rises above what it is.
The story itself never exactly makes a lot of sense.  Thirty years before, a bunch of radicals, including Robert Redford, went into hiding after robbing a bank in which one of them shoots and kills a bank guard.  It’s all in protest of the Viet Nam War, but thirty years from 2013 is 1983 and the whole thing seems a bit out of whack with the space time continuum.   And the logic of the whole story never really gets much better (by the time the movie is over, it’s a bit muddled just why Redford’s character went into hiding since he was never guilty, he wasn’t even at the bank—it’s sort of like the actor in him wanted to have his cake and eat it too—play a bad guy without ever playing a bad guy). 
The basic cast is made up of the old guard versus the new.  The ex-radicals are played by such luminaries as the aforesaid Sarandon and Redford, as well as Julie Christie, Richard Jenkins, Nick Nolte, Sam Elliot and the ubiquitous Stephen Root.  Jesus, it’s like an episode of Murder, She Wrote, but filled with A list actors who are still working rather than B-list actors desperate for a job.   Only Susan Sarandon really comes off well, with a mesmerizing scene with LaBeouf where she defends her role in the protests of the, well, I was going to say 1960’s, but with that space time continuum thingy, I’m not sure, but at any rate, she’s hypnotic and really delivers. 
The young guard is made up of LaBeouf, Anna Kendrick and Terence Howard, and all I can say is that Kendrick and Howard need to get a new agent.  Both are well respected actors with Oscar nominations, but if the best their managers can do is get them work playing second fiddle to LaBeouf, then drastic measures need to be taken.  At the same time, LeBeouf, himself, acquits himself well.  I don’t know what it is about him, but lately whenever I review him, I always seem to start with, he acquits himself well.  I think it’s because I’m never really convinced he is cast right; but he’s a solid actor, and he carries the movie on his unbroad shoulders rather well here. 
It would be remiss of me not to mention that there’s also the inbetween guard with Chris Cooper in a nice quiet performance as Redford’s brother and Stanley Tucci as a rather odd newspaper editor who doesn’t think that the FBI somehow obtaining a warrant to search a reporter’s apartment isn’t remotely a news story.   I didn’t know how to react to that.
The screenplay is by Lem Dobbs and is often quite witty with a lot of clever dialog.  It’s directed by Redford in his usual bland style. 
Eddie: the Sleepwalking Cannibal (no, I’m not making that up, that is the title) is a horror movie about a painter who is blocked but gets inspiration after a ten year dry spell when his housemate, Eddie, a mentally slow man he has taken in, starts sleepwalking at night and eating people.  The artist is so inspired by this muse (the violence brings out the creativity in him), that he starts manipulating Eddie to repeat his nocturnal activities.  It’s Roger Corman material, but with more style, wit and marginally better production values.  It’s a lot of fun and the story works itself out in a very satisfying manner.   It’s ridiculous and silly, but that’s the point (at least I hope it is).  The clever screenplay is by Boris Rodriguez (who also directed), Jonathan Rannells and Alex Epstein.  The painter is played by Danish transplant Thure Lindhardt who, to his credit, manages to take the whole thing quite seriously.
All comments welcome.
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