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The Place Beyond the Carnies

17 January 2014

Warning: This post is going to be full of spoilers on the 2012 movie The Place Beyond The Pines. If you haven’t seen it (and I think that puts you in the majority, as it only did $21 million in the box office) and you want to (I thought it was pretty decent, so give it a shot), you can pretty much skip this post. Otherwise…

So, I watched The Place Beyond The Pines last night, which you might better know as the one where Ryan McHandsome (or, as you might know him, Ryan Gosling) plays a carny who is somehow still impossibly handsome, even with hobo clothes and shit-tons of awful tattoos.


Here’s the thing — this movie always kept me guessing as to what was going to happen, and I mean that in the best possible way. Each scene logically led into the next; there were no gimmicky tricks or random left-turns employed to keep people guessing (M. Night Shyamalan, I’m looking disapprovingly in your direction). It did so in kind of a genius way — by playing with audience perceptions of film, and going against them.

Spoilers begin here.

So, the top two actors billed in the movie are Ryan McHandsome and Bradley Cooper. Ryan McHandsome dies 50 minutes into the two-and-a-half hour movie (and Bradley Cooper doesn’t even show up until 47 minutes in… and then it’s to kill Ryan McHandsome). Before minute 47, I kept wondering isn’t Bradley Cooper supposed to be in this movie somewhere? And after minute 50, I kept wondering how they were going to bring Ryan Gosling back. Would there be flashbacks? Evil twin? Time travel?!

He didn’t come back. He died and stayed dead, which is totally logical… but Hollywood has taught us that our leading actor will be around most of the film, not less than half of it. So the movie kept me guessing. After an hour of no Ryan Gosling, after a 15-year time jump and the introduction of even more major characters, I stopped wondering if he was coming back.

It’s a pretty decent film, one that moves slowly and features a lot of actors acting their balls off (spoiler: no one’s balls come off in the movie). But it’s well-directed and well-written, and in my opinion worth a watch.

The point of this entry — don’t lean too hard on convention. Don’t be afraid to take risks with the story you’re telling. Sometimes, you might leave your audience guessing in the best possible ways.

What movies have you seen/books have you read that constantly kept you on your toes?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 17 January 2014 1149

    I love stuff that doesn’t play into what it’s supposed to be. I hear people say you must kill lots of characters to create tension. But…you read George RR Martin and it’s like, “It’s a character…it will die!” There’s really no surprise. (I know, red wedding.) But really, at some point, the most surprising thing would be for a writer like that to NOT kill a character…there’d be big tension waiting and expecting.

    I’ve never been a fan of twists for the sake of twists. It’s such an easy out. It sounds weird, but the movie that Steve Martin/Jack Black/Owen Wildon bird movie…(runs to Google): The Big Year…I LOVED it because I kept expecting it to go typical in its sap. It dipped, but never totally jumped in like I was expecting, so it was sentimental at times without being too sugary.

    Also: “features a lot of actors acting their balls off (spoiler: no one’s balls come off in the movie).” made me laugh out loud!

    • 17 January 2014 1211

      Death toll in The Handsomest Carny (really, the character’s name was “Handsome Luke” — even the movie felt the need to address it) was exactly one, which is odd for a movie about cops and bank robbers. I dug that this movie’s “twists” were all very logical outgrowths of the story — like you, I’m not a fan of twists for twist’s sake.

      I’ll have to see the movie you mentioned. 😉

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