a review of "The Place Beyond the Pines":
"He can get his own girl and his own kid. That's every man's right."
Hollywood has its way of doing things; casting the same people, using the same settings and making the same movie. This can make a director's job very difficult, suspending disbelief. Recalling an actor's previous performances, recognizing a commonly utilized setting or the sensation that, as a viewer, you "know where this is going" all lead to the most frustrating of movie moments: being snapped back to reality and out of the world that the film's crew tried desperately to engage you in.
Believing in a fictional Schenectady was my biggest concern leading up to the eventual nation-wide release of "The Place Beyond the Pines". I know 1990's Schenectady, I went to school there, I played little league baseball there, I slept there. And I know 2012 Schenectady, I eat there, I bank there and I work there. I was haunted by the idea that my experience with this beautiful crime drama would be spoiled by moments of "hey, look at that!"
So I buy my ticket electronically, in case the other locals like me go crazy and sell out the first showing of opening day. I sit down and prepare for the usual 15 minutes of Hollywood. "Wow, giant robots battling to the mechanical death, Tom Cruise in Scientology's next fundraiser!" I've seen these movies before, and they're beyond tiring. Then finally, it begins.
Was I inundated with a plague of familiar settings? Yes. "That's the Altamont Fair, that's the Ice Cream place, that's the Park", whatever. In no more than 10 minutes I was deeply engaged in what became a fantastic tale of life and tragedy. Men come and go, dreams rise and fall, life happens and death happens. This is what "The Place Beyond the Pines" is about. It's about fatherhood, family and how the decisions we make affect them. Yes, it is a tragedy in many ways, but it accomplishes a triumph much larger than the scope of the film.
So what happens when you bring Hollywood to Schenectady? Firstly, of course, it turns this happy-sad little town into a little bit of a fantasy. But it also injects Hollywood with a sense of home. It makes it slightly more subtle, more ambiguous and whole lot more real. It's human, neither good nor bad, cop or criminal, hero or villain. This is what good movies are made of, just ask Chris Nolan and his crop of Batman characters. However, and this is my penultimate statement, it does something that I am particular fond of and had thought no single movie could ever accomplish on its own; it introduces the Capital Region to real film-making.
Most people won't like it and probably wouldn't say many kind words had it not been in their backyard. Most people hate "real" stories and would rather pay $16 to see the next superhero duke it out in 3 dimensions, most people want a happy ending. Do they get it? There are some solid action moments and there are some (maybe tarnished) happy moments. That's for you to decide. Personally, that's the kind of life I want. Where I pursue my dreams at all costs, have a little bit of excitement and a real-life kind of happiness, not the next "E! True Hollywood Story". Do me a favor and see it.
4/5 -Timothy Cole