15 September 2014

Getting Carried Away

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When I was younger, one of my best friends lived next to an empty house which we'd all been told was haunted. Out of everybody who knew about it though, only one boy claimed to have seen the ghost and even then, we knew he was full of crap. He was younger than us and clearly his brain hadn't quite found that sweet spot of being imaginative and yet still believable, because his description of what he'd seen was complete fucking bollocks. He said the ghost was of a giant that was also a witch and that it had sharp teeth and it could fly and it had claws and it had four arms and nine legs and blah, blah, fucking blah. Basically, he used the word “and” so much that it was obvious he'd gotten carried away on the enthusiasm of his own bullshit. Have you read the description of the Devil in the Bible? It's basically the same deal! When I was a kid, we got the good book given to us for free and so naturally the section on the anti-Christ was the only bit I bothered with. Anyway, he sounded equally as stupid with the same mix of imagination and lack of believability. The Devil has twelve horns and fire in his eyes and three tails and balls the size of the moon and a tongue like a Whales dick and YES- I GET THE POINT. HE'S A FUCKING MONSTER!  Anyway, so to summarise, I guess that's probably what I thought about The Place Beyond The Pines...
For those who don't know the plot of that film, I'll have a go at summarising it for you now... Okay... so, deep breath... and... So there's this stunt driver and he starts to rob banks and there's a policeman and he chases him and he wants to be promoted and he gets wrapped up in some corruption thing and there's a couple of kids and one of them is a mega-twat and one is a potential twat and they start hanging out and they buy some drugs and, and, and... and fuck me, this film is pretty epic. When this movie started and having seen the trailers, I was expecting some traditional cat and mouse bullshittery between Ryan Gosling's Bank Robber and Bradley Cooper's cop. What I actually got though was some fucking dementedly sprawling epic that spans decades and deals with themes of guilt, consequence, morality, responsibility, fathers, sons and sins being passed down through generations. Like the ghost next door to my friend and the description of the devil in the bible, it's as though the filmmakers just got so fucking giddy about all of their ideas that they couldn't pick a favourite and so just thought ‘fuck it- lets just make them all at once’.

Drive 2: Skank Harder
I was quite excited to see this film for two reasons and they were because of its star Ryan Gosling and also the director Derek Cianfrance. If you've not seen their previous effort together then I do strongly recommend that you watch Blue Valentine, which put marriage under the microscope and then took a massive, fat dump on it. I'm not into any of that lovey-dovey crap and as a bitter, lonely, misanthrope, there's no-way I wouldn't enjoy a film about romance that’s like 500 Days Of Summer crossed with Nil By Mouth. It was also a very small and intimate film in which plot was sidelined in favour of just pointing a camera at an actor’s face and making them do their fucking job. In many ways, the two have taken what they did here and applied it to a sprawling Godfather-esque monster of a film. It's still about the small things, such as the emotion of a family being complete for the sake of a photograph or a teenager talking to his adopted father about where his real dad is. However, now they've also thrown in some high speed chases, a couple of shoot-outs and a few bank robbery scenes in which Goslings criminal calling card seems to be his whiney fucking voice. In many ways, it's nice to see a film like this in which performance and character are prioritised, however this does kind of jar a little when the third act stumbles into the conventions of a more clichéd thriller, but you know... balls to it- it was still fun.

Anyway, so I guess I should mention the films structure, which came as a bit of a surprise to me. Contrary to what you might suspect, you're essentially getting three separate films in this, which are linked through coincidence and theme. In fact, by the time of the credits, I kind of felt like I'd watched a fucking HBO mini-series. Season one deals with Gosling’s bank robber, season two is Bradley Cooper’s one good cop trying to survive amongst the corruption, and season three is a couple of shitty kids bonding over a love of frowning. Like I say, the whole thing ends up feeling a little contrived but I think it just about gets away with it thanks to its sheer bat-shit ambition. In fact, one of the things that this film reminded me of, beyond the Devil and an imaginary ghost, was the Wachowski's and Tom Tykwer's Cloud Atlas. Both films rely on coincidences but manage to do so without me throwing a chair at the screen through annoyance because of their general mythic quality. The Place Beyond The Pines might superficially seem like quite a grounded film, but its reliance on archetypes and the importance of fate do give it a more fable-esque feel. Quite what the moral is, I'm not entirely sure although I guess it could either be that what goes around comes around or even more simply that most people are fucking idiots.

You're never too young to check out Eva Mendes' tits!
I suppose it should go without saying that the acting is all pretty good here too! Gosling continues his schtick of playing a dopey eyed but just-about-likeable fucknugget and Cooper again does his thing of seeming simultaneously both smart and dumb. Ray Liotta also shows up for season two of the film and essentially plays the same character he's played in everything ever. He's a charismatic slime-ball who hides his evil behind has charm and whose smile resembles that of a ventriloquists dummy that was melted in a fire. I like him! Eva Mendes is also pretty good as the loveable skank who’s trying to protect her family from a possibly violent stuntman but seems to be failing by constantly jumping on his gear-stick (cock) and going for a ride (fuck). I do like Eva Mendes, but as the film jumps forward in time, they try to age her by simply greying her hair a little and drawing lines on her forehead with what looks like a fucking marker pen. It's not entirely convincing, however she does manage to sell it by going from the younger and naïve waitress to the hardened older gal whose life has kicked the smile clean-off her face. In fact, I suppose this is a similar kind of thing that Cianfrance did in Blue Valentine now that I think of it. In that film, Michelle Williams’ character was also infected with the shitness of life and so turned from a sweet-hearted and feisty young girl into what some people might call a miserable old frump.

The differences between Blue Valentine and The Place Beyond The Pines might seem jarring at first, but to be fair there are similarities. Like I mentioned before though, both films take a magnifying glass and shove it up the arse of its main characters to ensure that we don't miss any nuance of the performance. Both also span several decades to show how much of a balls-up in the past might fester with time and end up fucking everybody in the head. Both also kind of deal with the American Dream, by contrasting it with the shitness of our real waking life. In both films, the characters just want to provide for their families and enjoy just a modest slice of happiness, and in all cases they're shown just how turd being alive can be. I really enjoyed The Place Beyond The Pines and although there's a big bit of me that thinks it doesn't quite hang together as one cohesive piece, there's another that's just so in awe of its ambition that I really don't care. If I have any criticism, other than the contrivance of season three, it is perhaps that, of all three series, the first is by far my favourite. However the fact that it had the balls to just change story a third of the way in was refreshing enough that from that point on I had no idea where the film was going. If you've not seen this film then I recommend that you check it out, and if you already have then fuck-a-doodle-do for you. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did and if not, I'm happy to argue with you about why you're wrong. Anyway, thanks for reading and see you next time, motherfuckers.  


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