Pop Culture Pains: The Love Triangle

Pop Culture pains are the things in television shows, movies or books that make me want to pull my hair out. 

You find yourself invested in a television show or a movie. You’re loving all the characters. Then you see two characters who seem so perfect together. But wait…someone else enters the picture. Then you scream with horrible. No, no, no. It’s a love triangle.

The Vampire Diaries

I hate television show love triangles. I hate movie love triangles even more.  The ones in movies are huge disappointments. They usually end in one side of the triangle revealing themselves to be a horrible person.  Therefore, wasting viewers’ time, because they take the easy escape route in the end. The ones on shows just cause unnecessary drama. But the main reason I hate love triangles in television shows and movies are love triangles are so unrealistic.  How many people do you really know in a love triangle? And if this person is in a love triangle, how much does that make you dislike them? It makes them seem really slimy, because what kind of person keeps people strung along while they figure things out. It’s the ultimate sign of a selfish person.

So how are we supposed to like characters too fickle to decide who they want to be with? I think most people aren’t torn between two people. Their relationship problems are more internal. Their insecure about themselves and/or their partner. They argue too much.  Their kids are killing the romance. Very rarely is a relationship broken up because someone is conflicted about who they love. So why should we accept this in our television shows and movies? I would much rather see relationships have conflict because there are so many internal things hurting their romance. Take the other people out of it.  They just cause fangirls to argue over who’s hotter.

If television show and movie writers really want to show the problems of relationships, especially young ones, focus on what happens when people who are not completely aware of themselves start dating. Show people who really only love each other, but their past keeps making them do damaging things to their romance. How about even showing someone be unfaithful, and then that person try to repair the pain of that.

I have never watched a show and said “I’m glad there is a love triangle. I love, love triangles!” I have watched a movie with a complicated relationship and admired the depiction of all the stress and pain that comes with love.  So dear pop culture, please stop the love triangles. I don’t care how many people want to rock those stupid team whatever t-shirts.  I rather see complex stories about love that don’t involve someone else coming in the picture.  Love stories are more interesting when they’re realistic. Love triangles are not realistic.

Movie Review: 5 Reasons Pacific Rim Is Cooler Than You Think, And 3 Reasons It’s Not

Warning this post may contain spoilers on Pacific Rim. Please do not read this until you see the movie.

When Pacific Rim was released, I had no interest in seeing it. Big budget, action, robot films rarely excite me. Additionally, the marketing for the film lacked momentum.  Not until the week of release did I hear about  Pacific Rim. However, through the power of social media,  my curiosity became piqued.  People reblogged gifs of it on Tumblr all the time.  Twitter chirped with articles about Pacific Rim. Therefore,  I took to a trusted friend for more information about this movie:  IMDB.  I discovered that Pacific Rim was highly rated by IMDB users, and directed by Guillermo del Toro. Because Pan’s Labyrinth is one of my favorite movies of all-time, I am naturally inclined to see any movie directed by del Toro. Another selling point was  Robert Kazinsky. Kazinsky made this season of  True Blood  enjoyable. Therefore, all the social media buzz about the film, the cast and the director made its DVD release date an important time for me.

PACIFIC RIM

Tonight I watched Pacific Rim.  I now understand the cult behind it. However, some glaring problems with the film kept me from drinking the cult Kool-Aid.

So here are five reasons why Pacific Rim is cooler than you think, and three reasons why it’s not.

Cooler Than You Think

1. Movie Genre-Hybrid-Baby Film 

My movie genre expertise does not correlate with the ones that  influenced Pacific Rim . However, even non-experts, like me, easily can understand how certain film genres inspired elements of this movie.  Pacific Rim partially sources monster movies, hero origin tales and even a few  buddy cop/romance ones.

The film draws heavily from  Japanese monster movies. Some of the best moments of Pacific Rim involves the mimicking of Godzilla or King Kong movies. Pacific Rim clearly loves, knows and appreciates all the genres referenced, and because of that, it’s an admirable production.

2.  How Casting Should Be Done

It unsettles me when casting directors go for big Hollywood names instead of acting abilities. With that being said, the majority of the cast of Pacific Rim has little name recognition to an American audience.  Nevertheless, everyone in the cast radiates acting talent. Along with Kazinsky, I am a fan of Idris Elba and Charlie Day. Additionally, Rinko Kikuchi‘s performance on Babel is unforgettable. The only actor I was unfamiliar with, going into this film, was Charlie Hunnam. However, upon further research, I discovered how crafted he is at creating characters.

Overall, the Pacific Rim’s cast is what dreams are made of.

3. Diversity, Yeah! 

The film needs a bit more racial diversity.  Nonetheless, the multi-racial casting represents what the future of film casting should look-like.  Besides being racial diverse, the Pacific Rim cast is globally diverse.  Americans are the minority in this movie.

Pacific Rim‘s casting choices helps convey the idea that films need more diversity with leading roles.

4.  Pretty Colours 

Despite the sea monsters destroying it, Pacific Rim‘s version of Hong Kong looks breathtaking. A major reason for this involves the films consistent use of contrasting red and blue. A whole analytical piece for the film could really dive into the interesting patterns with the red and blue scenes in Pacific Rim.  For example, I’m sure some film student could do a whole reading on the scene when Mako (Rinko Kikuchi) carries her  little red shoes while being chased by a huge robot monster. They could argue that the red shoes in this totally demolished place symbolizes hope. Then they could say something about how red often shows hope in the film, and also tie that in with the important of red to Hong Kong.

The red burns bright while the city turns grey and dark.  It’s just such a beautiful visual.

5. Sign Me Up For This World

While watching Pacific Rim,  I started wondering about evolution. I wondered if  these creatures could actually happen one day. Then I started wondered if we should prepare now. I also wondered where would I get a cool robot suit.

I respect and admire how effortlessly del Toro created a world I fully believe.

Why It’s Not

1. You Can Fight Him, But You Can’t Stand Up For Yourself! 

A major problem in Pacific Rim is the characterization of Mako. She gives in too much to her emotions and is almost entirely submissive.  Essentially, Mako, as the only female character, classifies on the same hero level as the men. However, her fragile mentality makes her weaker than them.  The most disturbing display of Mako’s fragile nature shows when she cannot control her memories and almost kills everyone at the lab.  If the film had any other character behaving this way, it wouldn’t have felt like a jab against women. Because Mako as the only woman seems so emotional, it feels like the film is saying, “women: too emotional for heroics.” No other character in Pacific Rim displays lack of emotional control in this way. Becket (Charlie Hunnam) faces similar distress but he remains calm.

Another point of concern is Mako’s relationship with Pentecost (Idris Elba). Until his death, he controlled her completely, and she submitted to him easily.  Just because he was her father figure does not excuse their concerning relationship. Even daughters rebel against  controlling fathers. I do not believe Pacific Rim intended to express sexist ideologies, but  sometimes the intent does not match the reality.

People can argue it is an Asian culture thing. However, I will prove those stereotypes incorrect.

2. I’ll Take That Without All The Cheese

As a robot film, I expected robot film dialogue. Therefore, I did not expect Shakespeare in the park. Nevertheless, sometimes the writing became so cheesy that I cringed. Other times, the film felt so formulaic that I could predict the lines and storylines.

One moment that almost made me want to turn away, because it was too painful (in a laughable way) to watch, is the tearful goodbyes between Chuck (Robert Kazinsky) and Herc (Max Martini). That scene’s writing ranks  on the same level as soap opera cheesy.  Aside: No offense is intended to soap opera fans or writers. Soap operas, despite their bad reputation, can have very captivating storylines and scenes. However, when soap opera writers fail to write something believable, they really fail.   End Aside.

Like soap operas, when Pacific Rim‘s writing lacks believability, it really does.

3. Know The Rules of Textbook Characters, Then Break Them

Despite the talent of the cast, at times the characters are one-dimensional and unrealistic. Pentecost’s angry screaming almost discredited Elba as an actor.   It just didn’t feel natural. Both Kazinsky and Hunnam fall into character stereotypes. Kazinsky embodies the jerk, with a daddy issues,  cliche, just as much as Hunnam represents the All-American hero one.

Their acting was fine, but neither actor attempted to take these characters to another level. A textbook character can still have dimensions to make it more than that(See: Joss Whedon characters as reference).

Dr. Geiszler (Charlie Day)  and Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) are the most fascinating characters in Pacific Rim. Both of them are reinterpretations of very classic character stereotypes. They took weird scientists characters to new levels.  Dr. Geiszler’s quest storyline is so interesting that it easily could have been its own film.

Pacific Rim definitely has a lot of inspiring qualities: the homage to monster films, the perfect casting and the subtle usage of colors. However, there is a lot of room for improvements.  So if there is a sequel someday, work on the problems. Therefore, it can truly become a monster of a film.

Grade: 6.9/10

Kick-Ass 2 Review: Let’s Do It All Again Only Worse

Disclaimer: This review contains spoilers for Kick-Ass 2 (2013).  Please do not read this review until you see the movie.

Introduction

Kick-Ass (2010) effortlessly blended cartoonish violence, realistic portrayals of unrealistic characters and great origin stories.  However, Kick-Ass 2 directed by Jeff Wadlow tries to duplicate the magical elements of the first one, but repeats the pitfalls of many sequels, and fails to develop the storylines and characters in a captivating manner.

Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl

Plot Summary

Dave “Kick-Ass” (Aaron Taylor Johnson) , Mindy “Hit-Girl” ( Chloe  Grace Moretz) and Chris formerly “RedMist” now “The Mothef*cker” (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) return for a new adventure of saving, and trying to destroy, the world.   In this film, they go on similar adventures to those in Kick-Ass 1. 

Chris in Kick-Ass wanted to be a hero, but now he aims to become the ultimate supervillain with a perfect villainous team. Dave, once again, is learning how to be a hero, but now he desires to exclusively work with Mindy.  However, Mindy tries to be a regular girl to please  her guardian, Marcus (Morris Chestnut).

Will each character achieve their goals?

Important Themes

A major theme of Kick-Ass 2 is defining your own sense of normality.  This theme is strongest through Mindy’s journey to fit into high school life, and then her transition back into Hit-Girl. Being Hit-Girl is her normal, not teen life.

Overall Impression

Kick-Ass 2 lacks an understanding of its original characters and females in general.  In Kick-Ass , Chris was weird but also really funny. In the sequel he is just annoying without redeemable characteristics.  Everything about him feels forced and uncomfortable. Even the most despicable villains have charm. Loki, Lex Luther, and the Joker are all sociopaths but also possess qualities that make them likable.  Another theme of the Kick-Ass franchise is that these are not your typical heroes or villains, which could explain why Chris doesn’t quite work as a supervillain. However, he also doesn’t work as a character in general. Nothing about him, in this movie, makes him interesting.

Dave was the star of the first movie, but he feels like a pointless aside in this one.  Dave’s story is just a repeat of his original one but with new characters. Another pointless addition to Dave’s story, is that his friend Marty “Battle Guy” (Clark Duke) gets a forefront story, and newly recast Todd “Ass Kicker” (Augustus Prew) becomes way less important than he was in the original one.  Neither character need to become more than they were in Kick-Ass, but one gets shown favoritism while the other gets made even stupider.

Dave’s storyline could have been better if it solely focused on him and Hit-Girl developing their friendship, and less on the introduction of new superheroes. None of which were that memorable or fun, not even Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey).

Mindy is the only character who possesses the same spark she had in the original Kick-Ass.  However, her storyline becomes a way to show sexism towards “normal teen girls.”

Whereas Mean Girls (2004) is a satirical and smart criticism of mean girl culture, Kick-Ass 2 is  a misguided ideal of “normal” women and girls.  In Kiss-Ass 2, every girl (minus Mindy) is shown as mean, or sex-crazed or both.  Having the mean girls caricature would have been fine, if there was a counterexample  to it.  Nevertheless, there wasn’t one.

Dave’s girlfriend Katie (Lyndsy Fonseca), who was portrayed as popular, nice and loving in the original one, comes off  as mean, stupid and slutty in the sequel.   Hit-Girl doesn’t work as the counter-argument to this mean girl stereotype, because she is not classified as a normal girl, but a super one. So what is this saying about normal females? Only the super ones are neither bitches or sluts?

The actual Kick-Ass 2 plot is just a repeat of the first one, with slight changes. Which creates a problem because sequels don’t work if they don’t  try to evolve the storylines of the original ones in a unique and better way.  There was no real evolution of these characters or their stories. The only growth is through Hit-Girl but that’s not enough to save this movie.

Conclusion

Kick-Ass was violent without glorifying it, fun without being silly and felt realistic despite its unreal nature. Kick-Ass 2’s violence is a little too much, it’s characters and actions are silly, and it loses some of its heart to create a popcorn film. Kick-Ass 2 is not kick-ass, it’s moderately dope at best.

5/10

Character Profiling: Aimee Finicky

Disclaimer:  This character profiling focuses on the movie version of The Spectacular Now’s Aimee Finicky. Though I plan to read the book, this discuss dives into the movie’s depiction of this character.  This post may contain spoilers. 

What is Character Profiling?

Every week, I will  profile some character in pop culture (either through films, books or TV shows) that deserves some further exploration for their dynamic nature. I shall also explain why this character breaks pop culture modes, creates their own archetype or works within their genre to change it.  Basically this is a weekly look at some of my favorite characters, and why I like them.

This week’s character is The Spectacular Now‘s Aimee Finicky. 

Aimee Finicky ( Shailene Woodley)from The Spectacular Now  demonstrates how socially awkward teenage girl need to be portrayed by the media.  Movies and television shows often characterize these types of girls as eccentric, pixie-like hipsters.  The clearest example of this is Jessica Day ( Zooey Deschanel) from The New Girl. 

Aimee represents the geek girl in their truest form: a bit awkward but still firmly aware of reality and social norms.  Unlike commonly shown, this character does not repeatedly tell viewers she’s ‘quirky’ just to signify the difference between her and other girls. Instead,  her unique nature subtly comes across through her love of comics, lack of romantic history and her consistent use of the word ‘awesome.’ Her lack of social ineptness pairs realistically with her other traits of passivity, low self-esteem and a need for social acceptance.

Another profound thing about the character of Aimee Finicky is that  other girls are not characterized negatively to make her seem exceptional. Aimee  does not war against other females, especially the popular or bitchy ones, because there is no threat to identities.  The Spectacular Now depicts the popular girl (Brie Larson‘s Cassidy) in a way that is almost as intriguing and outstanding as its portrayal of Aimee.  Both characters can co-exist in this world without backstabbing, degrading or fighting each other to prove their superiority. They may not be friends, but they are also not enemies.

Like most humans, Aimee has admirable traits and loathsome ones. Some of her good traits include general likability and a caring nature. Her negative  ones include being a pushover and revolving her life around a guy.  In the scene after the almost accident, where Sutter yell at her, Aimee causes viewer to cringe. After he nearly kills her, she weakly stands by crying and apologizes to him.  You want Aimee to scold  him, say a few sassy comments, even leave him, but you know that is not her character. And any other characteristic at this moment is not true to her nature.

She does go through a transformation, but it’s not the simple put on makeup and a tight dress one.   It’s both to her interior and exterior. Her relationship with Sutter gives her confidence but it does not magically cure every issue. Aimee isn’t the perfect girl who knows what to say and when.  She doesn’t just magically become that girl because she’s in love.  Like many, her process of self-discovery isn’t pretty or rapid. It’s slow and ugly.

Awkward teen girls have and always will be a part of the American movie and television culture. Nevertheless, writers often fail to truly understand these girls and how they should be portrayed. However,  writers, filmmakers and actresses should take notes on Shailene Woodley’s Aimee.  Aimee works not because she’s this flawless character, but because her failures are real and raw. She should become the new  archetype for these type of characters. Only then will they get it right.

The Spectacular Now Review: The Pain Behind A Smile

Disclaimer: This review contains spoilers for The Spectacular Now (2013).  Please do not read this review until you see the movie.

Introduction

Fans and critics often compare The Spectacular Now (2013), directed by James Ponsoldt, to Say Anything (1989) .  Mainly because both movies depict the haunting reality of high school life and growing up.   To unleash the harsh realm of adulthood, Say Anything masks itself as a teen romantic comedy. However, The Spectacular Now approaches a similar story without the pretty tape.  It’s a hard drink of reality.

The Spectacular Now

Plot Summary

Sutter (Miles Teller) just got dumped by his girlfriend,  Cassidy (Brie Larson). He deals with it by doing his usual routine of getting drunk and partying.  One partying night results in him passed out on Aimee Finicky(Shailene Woodley)‘s lawn. They immediately bond and eventually fall in love.

Their romance is not filled with perfect montages, but awkward moments, real issues and a couple of life threatening moments. Together they tackle  their own emotional issues and their inevitability impending separation.

Important Themes

One important theme of The Spectacular Now is the problems with living passively.  This theme unfolds in two major ways in the film. The first is through Aimee failing to take charge of her own life. This results in her mother stripping away her youth through constant working.  It is only when Aimee meets Sutter that she begins to  actively live.   Aimee’s life because of passivity is not awful but dull. 

The second display of passivity is shown through how Sutter treats life. He enjoys the moment, but  never plans for his future or even the next day.  Despite Sutter’s party boy nature, he lives unhappily.  In the end, he finally makes a decision  by finishing his college essay and going after the girl.

Overall Impression

One again, like Say Anything, The Spectacular Now needs a lot of viewings to truly understand all the complexities inside it.  It is not a typical movie about high school life. There are those party scenes, a romance and even complicated relationship with parents. However, those party scenes are shown to hint of a real addiction problem. The romance is not perfect and even makes you question if it’s love or just something to pass the time. The parent-child relationship isn’t comedic but dark and believable.

What makes the movie great is that the writing is intricate and relatable. The entire cast, everyone from the smallest role to the leads, give complicated and sincere performances.  Even the directing choices and cinematography collaborate to make this town and these people more 3-dimensional. Almost every element of The Spectacular Now works perfectly.

The Spectacular Now is one of the most critically acclaimed movie of the year (so far).  The film may not be perfect but it profoundly looks at the unhappiness of being a teen, and it breaks away from the typical high school movie stereotypes. These factors contribute to why this is a must-see movie for lovers of good storytelling.

Conclusion

Anyone who has survived high school life knows the pain of being a teenager. However, they also know growing up is more painful than the shallowness of the teen years. Life sucks sometimes and this movie gets that. But it also gets the beauty  of life and that there is hope for the hopeless. The Spectacular Now, as Aimee would say, is “awesome.” Not amazing, but awesome.

7.5/10 

LoveLace Review: Fables and Biographies

Disclaimer: This review contains spoilers for LoveLace (2013).  Please do not read this review until you see the movie.

Introduction

LoveLace (2013) directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman stars Amanda Seyfried as Linda Lovelace, the first porn superstar.  The entire cast delivers powerful performances as complex, damaged and cultivating characters, but the film fails to make a memorable, lasting impression.

lovelace

Plot Summary

When Linda  meets Chuck (Peter Sarsgaard),  she immediately loses herself in his slimy charm.  In LoveLace, Linda is portrayed as a lonely, sad girl who’s entire life revolved around going from one controlling figure to another. But when she meets Chuck, she blinds herself to his true intentions. Soon after they marry, Chuck turns on his manipulative and abusive side. The movie tenderly displays the effects of abuse on women, especially in a culture that encourages them to be submissive.

Important Themes

A strength of LoveLace is pairing the layout of the story with the theme of appearance vs. reality. The first half of the film plays out almost like a fairy tale. Girl meets boy, they fall in love, next comes fame  and porn.  However, the story then shifts to the reality of things. Where boy beats girl, forces her to do porn and she never sees any money.

Because of Deep Throat (1972),  Linda becomes an example of female sexuality.  She is a symbol of liberty for women. However, in reality, Linda is oppressed by her husband. This also represents an example of appearance vs. reality. Linda’s actual life contrasts with what she symbolizes.

Overall Impression

The cast of LoveLace delivers exceptional performances, especially Seyfried, who does one of her best yet.  One of the mesmerizing moments of the film is when it combines archival footage with current images to recreate Linda’s appearance on Donahue.  Another strength is the depiction of the porn industry. It was neither shown as a beautiful world nor a conscienceless one. This decision towards the porn industry gave the film a realistic, even a relatable, tone. This is something Boogie Nights (1997) never achieved.

There are a lot of similarities between the two films, but LoveLace is no Boogie Nights, and Boogie Nights is no LoveLace. Which is understandable, because these are different stories of exploitation.

Conclusion:

LoveLace has a few errors, but overall it is a movie deserving of a viewing.  It captures your attention, but fails to haunt you like a great movie of this subject matter needs to do.

The movie is very enjoyable, but nothing about the it makes it standout in the sea of thousands of movies that comes out this year.

Grade: 6.3/10

The Lifeguard Review–Never Grow Up

Disclaimer: This review contains spoilers for The Lifeguard (2013) movie.  Please do not read this review until you see it.

Introduction

The Lifeguard (2013), directed by Liz W. Garcia,  continues the indie movie trend of disillusioned youth. However, the film takes this concept a step further by showing the consequences of trying to redo your teen years.  Despite the emotionally charged performances from the cast,  The Lifeguard’s cliche storylines, no-sense of moral justice and awkward sound-scene pairings makes it  almost as unfocused as its main heroine.

Kristen Bell and David Foster in Lifeguard

Plot Summary

Leigh (Kristen Bell), unhappy with her life as a journalist, decides to returns home.  Immediately, she reunites with her old friends Mel (Mamie Gummer) and Todd (Martin Starr). Both of their lives seem as unhappy as Leigh’s; they’re just better at suppressing them.  At 30, Todd still hides his homosexuality, and Mel is a vice-principal  trying to have a child in a miserable marriage.

Continuing her dive back into her old life, Leigh becomes a lifeguard again, like she was in high school and college. By the pool she meets Little Jason (David Lambert).   At first Leigh acts a guardian and mentor for Little Jay and his friends, especially Matt (Alex Shaffer). However, eventually Leigh and Little Jason begin an affair.

Important Themes

Depression is huge theme of the movie, and the bad choices people make because of it. Leigh’s depression because of her lack of direction results in her criminal affair.  Todd’s depression over never leaving his town and accepting his sexuality, leads him to the attempt seduction of a child.  Mel’s depression over her marriage and possibility of becoming a mother,  causes her to ignore her friends criminal acts.  Matt’s depression over his life, makes him the only victim of his depression by committing suicide.  His suicide sparks a series of events that will help these characters face their depression and attempt to conquer them.  If there is a moral lesson in The Lifeguard,  it’s to never  ignore your problems by numbing the pain, but to face them. Only through actions can you heal from them.

Overall Impression 

The Lifeguard shows a lot of different degrees of self destruction, some of them in a very realistic manner. The look at depression and self harm was the  strongest portion of the film.  However, one thing that didn’t work for the film is the usage of music, especially in driving scenes.  The music didn’t have the transcendent nature that was needed for these types of  moments. These scenes feel less authentic,  and they distracted from watching the interaction between the characters.

Another very weak point of the film was the lack of consequences for criminal actions.  The Lifeguard never fully took charge against Leigh or Todd for  their sexual behavior towards teens, which clearly hinted of some type of psychological issue, but was never addressed. Even if viewers are supposed to assume Leigh was attracted to Little Jason for his old soul, none of his actions made this believable.  Besides Leigh not being punished, one of the most ridiculous moments in the film was when Mel did not lose her job at all. There is no way she would have been allowed to continue to work at a school after that.  The entire outcome of Leigh’s affair with Little Jason felt so incredible unrealistic that the film became almost like a poorly written comedy.

Mel’s storyline about  questioning whether she wanted to have a baby gave the film a cliche nature, and further discredited the seriousness of the movie.  Nothing about  Mel or her husband screamed “good parents,” or warranted them staying together in the end.

Conclusion

While watching The Lifeguard, I thought of Dawson’s Creek.  The show has a nostalgic nature to it (both culturally and thematically). As an adult you can easily watch a marathon of it, because it allows you to relive a part of your youth.  However, you will never be able to recapture the original innocent magic you felt watching it for the first time. You’re too mature to not understand how unrealistic it depicts teen life.  The same goes for The Lifeguard. Anyone  mature knows how this film unauthentically depicts adults and consequences. Therefore, rendering you from ignorantly enjoying it.

5/10

The Place Beyond the Pines Review–The Trouble With Heroes

Warning: This review contains spoilers, please do not read if you do not want to know what happens in the movie. 

TPBTP

Introduction:

The Place Beyond the Pines (2012) directed by Derek Cianfrance, tells three overlapping stories.  The first story follows Luke(Ryan Gosling),  a stunt car racer.  Essentially, his story is about a troubled man searching for happiness but in the wrong ways.  The second half of the movie is about a rookie cop named Avery (Bradley Cooper). The core of his story is about him trying to make amends for his actions but losing himself in the process. The final story takes place fifteen years later, the main character of this part is Luke’s son, Jason (Dane  DeHaan).  Jason’s story involves one of the major themes of the movie: justice for the father at the expense of the son.

Plot Summary:

After learning he has a son, Luke begins robbing banks to support his family.  His ex lover Romina (Eva Mendes) has created a life without him, and she does not want him involved in her life anymore.  However, his inability to let go and violent tendencies continues to inflict pain on Romina and their son.  One day, he gets caught in a high speed chase with Avery.   Luke is murdered and Avery becomes the local hero. Avery pretends to be okay with the death, but he is haunted by it.

As Avery gets more involved in the local police force, he starts to see the corruption. He’s conflicted at first about where his loyalties lie, but he chooses to reveal the police crimes. Avery uses his knowledge to become assistant Attorney General and bring down the force.

Fifteen years later, he is now a divorced, respected politician running for Attorney General.  After some misbehaviors, his son, AJ (Emory Cohen) now wants to live with him.  Avery is reluctant at first, but later decides to let AJ move in.  At school AJ meets Jason, Luke’s son, which leads to Jason finding out the truth about his father.  This climaxes into an an emotional and dangerous confrontation between Avery and Jason. In the end, Jason and Avery both follow in their father’s foot steps. Avery by becoming Attorney General, and Jason by becoming a nomad.

Important Themes:

A clear theme of the movie is sons repeating the mistakes of their fathers. Avery becomes exactly what his father wanted him to be, and Jason almost becomes a criminal like his father. However, one of the less obvious themes is the blurry lines between heroes and villains.

By definition, Luke is the villain of the story. He’s a violent criminal.  However, everything Luke does is for his family. This makes him sacrificial, which is a trait of a hero.   Avery by definition should be the hero. He kills a criminal and works for the law. But the more he gets involved with the police, he starts to see their corruption. Corruption is one of the strongest traits of villains. Avery questioning the murder of Luke shows that his action may not have been as heroic as they are portrayed.  He later helps stop the crimes taking place in the police force, which is a heroic act, because he’s standing up for what is morally right. However, he uses his knowledge to secure a better job, which means his actions are not selfless, like a hero’s would be.

The third part of the movie shows that everyone is both a hero and a villain.   Avery is now an important man, but he got there through blackmail, betrayal and lying.  All villainous acts. AJ is just a delinquent who causes his father trouble.The same goes for Jason. These are more characteristics of villains.   However, by the end of the movie, they all become both heroes and villains. Jason commits a vile act of almost killing AJ and Avery, but he redeems himself by letting them both live. Therefore, executing a heroic act and a villainous one.  Avery conducts a heroic act by apologizing for killing Luke and letting Jason go without turning him in for his crimes. But, he still becomes the Attorney General after using blackmail to get that far politically. AJ is neither redeemed nor  persecuted for his crimes. We are given no clear answer on whether AJ will become a hero by learning from his mistakes or stay a villain by repeating them.

By the end, no one is completely free of sin, but no one is too sinful for forgiveness.  Everyone is just human.

Overall Impression:

The Place Beyond the Pines has many stunning performances, especially from Gosling, Mendes,  Cooper and Dehaan.  The story has many strong points, especially the first hour of the movie. However, there are a lot of slow buildup in the film, and the third portion feels very underdeveloped.

We don’t learn enough about AJ and Jason to truly care about them. In fact, AJ is a loathsome character who never gets redeemed. Jason has more potential as a character, but his final acts seem unrealistic. Jason has no knowledge of his father until he google searches him. Therefore, any facts he learns about him are probably told in a manner to make Luke seem like a terrible criminal.  However, he still feels the need to get revenge for his father’s death, which doesn’t make sense, because he has no indication of his father being worthy of avenging.  Unless we as viewers are supposed to believe he is just seeking revenge for the principle of avenging his father.

Conclusion:

Overall, The Place Beyond the Pines has a really strong story, but it tries to tell too much story. In doing this, some elements of the film suffer. The movie works better as just the third storyline with flashbacks from the first two stories. This allows the viewers to have stronger bonds with AJ and Jason.  Therefore, giving a more satisfactory conclusion. Instead the ending felt incomplete and hallow with the movies current story format.

6.5/10