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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

‘Behind the Pines’ fails to entertain

Published: April 19, 2013
Section: Arts, Etc.

“The Place Behind the Pines” is a movie that no one should watch. It boasts a star-studded cast, including Ryan Gosling, Eva Mendes and Bradley Cooper; but it was a cast that walked about the set looking as if they would have rather been anywhere but there, if it had not been for the fat paycheck at the end of filming. In fact, Gosling had his character killed off halfway through the movie so that he no longer needed to bear the awfulness that was all around him.

The movie opens by focusing on Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling), a stunt motorcyclist in a circus. After an extraordinarily long opening sequence where all the audience sees is Gosling’s back, he gets on a bike and dare-devilishly zips around a spherical metal cage, weaving in and out of the other two riders in the cage with extreme ease. He then stands outside the circus tent, smoking a cigarette while signing autographs for a group of kids. He is then approached by Eva Mendes, who proceeds to tell him that the one time they had sex more than a year ago, he impregnated her. She makes it clear, however, that she has a boyfriend with whom she is madly in love, and that he can’t follow her around, or be the father that he wants to be. Obviously, she’s not meant to be listened to, and Gosling decides to continuously stalk her house.

From here on out, the plot starts to loosen and unravel in the most fantastical way. Gosling decides that the best way to support his child is to quit his job. When he tells his ex-lover, she rightfully stares at him as if he is crazy. He takes up a part time job as a mechanic with a random man that he meets in the forest, and proceeds to alert the man about his entire personal life. The man, magically enough, used to be a bank robber and suggests to Gosling that he aid him in robbing banks around the area. Gosling refuses, but after being shunned by Mendes’ character and her boyfriend yet again, clearly missing the hint that he’s not wanted, he decides to acquiesce. That’s all the push he needs to rob a bank—being told that it wasn’t smart to quit his job for a lower paying job in order to support the child he never knew about.

The two start robbing banks, Gosling acting as the least intimidating, most insane bank robber of all time. He robs banks with a squeaky, Mickey Mouse type of voice that would make people want to hit him rather than dive down and stuff large sums of money into his bag. After robbing two banks with extreme luck, he decides to rob two banks in one day. It’s like crack cocaine to this character, and he just got hooked in a matter of days. Gosling’s acting in this movie is horrendous as he does not give any reality to his work or his role other than the tattoos painted on his body.

The dialogue gives no reason for any of the characters to exist, let alone act in the way that they do. The speech is completely disconnected, and the characters seem to answer questions that were never asked, yet should have been, leading to a full disconnection from the movie. The soundtrack is jarring and does not fit the movie, proving to be extremely distracting and at times it even drowns out the actors’ speeches, which would have been good had it not been for the terrible choice of songs. The reality of the movie is also extremely questionable; Gosling hits Mendes’ boyfriend in the eye with the sharp part of a hammer after he invades their house to build a crib, and the audience is shown the bloody eye almost falling out of its socket. Yet the next time the boyfriend is shown, there is absolutely nothing wrong with his eye, despite the fact that at most, two months have passed. The damage shown would not have been repairable. However, time lapses in the movie are not well worked out, and the audience is never shown any indication of the amount of time that has passed, adding to the air of confusion.

It takes close to an hour for Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper), to come into the movie. One would expect Cooper’s role to lift the plot at least a little, based on his acting in “Silver Lining Playbook.” He is, however, given a role of stupidity equivalent to Gosling’s. Cooper acts as a rookie cop, who chases Gosling down after he robs two banks in one day. Gosling gets hit by a car and runs into a house, instead of simply jumping the fence of the house’s backyard and making his escape. Cooper then can’t decide whether or not to follow him, evacuates the residents, forcing them down at gunpoint, and runs around the house multiple times looking for a way in, not realizing that the door is wide open. Finally, he kicks it down, but nobody knows how the door has magically closed, since the house’s owners ran out screaming, leaving it wide open. He then walks in, waving his weapon, wondering where on earth Gosling is, though he was just told that the man was upstairs. He walks in and shoots immediately, refusing to follow officer protocol. Gosling falls out the window and shoots at the same time, managing to hit Cooper. Gosling is now dead, released from the terrible movie.

The plot then focuses on Cooper’s family and work life. He is hailed as a hero by the police department, and finds himself in a moral dilemma when he finds out that half his police force is corrupt when they go to Eva Mendes’ house and search it for money that could have been from Gosling. They find it and take it, giving Cooper the “lion’s share” as he was the one who was shot. His wife is seriously upset about Cooper’s injury, and wants him to retire from his job. He is supposed to chase down criminals, even if it puts his person in danger. It is known that this is his first year on the police force because he is consistently referred to as “rookie.” At the same time, he is portrayed as a 36-year-old with a child, so why is he a rookie cop? With the way that he acts, it is easy to guess that he probably failed the police academy’s courses multiple times over.

The movie then switches time frames again, following Cooper’s child, who is caught up in drug trouble. Cooper’s character is separated from his wife, presumably because he didn’t retire after his first six months on the job. Conveniently, Cooper’s son AJ is best friends with Gosling’s son, Jason, who does not know who his father is. Both of them get arrested for drug possession, and Cooper gets both off the hook. Predictably, he tells his son to stay away from Jason, knowing who Jason’s father was even though he was raised without his criminal father. Jason continuously wants to know who about his real father, and upon finding out, gets into a fight with AJ, who beats him up to the point where he is taken to the hospital. After his release, Jason heads to AJ’s house and takes Cooper hostage and drives him to the woods. Cooper begs for his life in front of a 15-year-old, who relents and lets him go. A predictable ending closes a truly terrible movie. There are no themes that are explored by this completely disconnected movie, which attempts to be thoughtful and eloquent. The style of the movie is horrendous, and leads to more confusion than clarity. It was a waste of a movie ticket. Stay away.