The Place Beyond The Pines (2012)
Act 1: Though I'm a huge fan of Lars and the Real Girl, I'm gonna go ahead and sell Ryan Gosling as an actor. This role of Luke is perfect for his style, but it is a character type I don't like, therein lies the problem. It is so typical of the "man in crisis" mold, unable to really express emotions or form bonds of friendship or love. What might be a noble expression of parental responsibility is ultimately less about his son or his son's mother and more about his own selfish need to play the role of father, often in nonconsensual fashion. If the film constructed a situation where it showed how his options were limited by societal prejudice and kind of forced his hand, that might be something, but the film ultimately shows very little imagination so of course he has to turn to a life of crime and of course he can only lash out in anger, because bad father/bad childhood. The only answer to conflicted masculinity is more machismo.
Act 2: If the first part serves any valuable purpose, it is setting the stage for Bradley Cooper's character, Avery. In his processing the aftermath of fatally shooting Luke (perhaps unnecessary, but he'd never be convicted for it), it presents a timely story. For legal and political reasons, we haven't seen a lot of self doubt related to the string of shootings by cops in recent months. This makes it more sympathetic character placed against those around him who don't seem to understand that he'd be conflicted by that or other steps they take. Thus he turns for justice outward to try to compensate for that he feels unable to rectify internally. Based on this act alone, I'd be on board.
Act 3: I guess the point here is that Luke's kid Jason is so driven by genetics that he's bound to take a bad turn? Because Avery's kid AJ certainly didn't pull him there with his powerful anti-charisma. This whole intertwining of past with present felt so contrived in part because the allure is so weak. Like with Luke, there seems to be a powerful lack of imagination of alternatives making it seem like genetics or environment excuse bad choices.
As someone who largely advocates the power of society (both genetics and environment are sub-components of this) over individual choice, that this film didn't develop this aspect that it seems to be making its thesis makes me fall to an individualist skepticism. How poorly do you have to handle something to push me away from the message of the film even though I was inclined toward it going in? Ultimately the 2/3 bad film cannot justify the 1/3 good film.