Reel Reviews

‘The Place Beyond the Pines’

Audience:
L – limited adult audience

 

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Dark moral tale definitely for adults

We have the assurance of the Old Testament that the iniquity of a father will be visited upon his children (Num 14:18). That happens more than once in “The Place Beyond the Pines” (Focus).

The film elevates a standard crime drama into a wrenching and profound morality tale about ordinary lives caught in the balance between good and evil. Each life decision carries a high price that few wish to pay, with the debt — and the consequences — passed on to the next generation.

The film's title is also its setting, the titular phrase being one possible English translation of the Mohawk word from which the upstate city of Schenectady, N.Y., takes its name. The carnival comes to this depressed industrial burg, bringing with it “Handsome Luke” (Ryan Gosling), a motorcycle stuntman who rides around the inside of a steel cage like a gerbil on steroids.

Luke is thrown for a different kind of loop when his ex-lover Romina (Eva Mendes) comes to see his show. She has a surprise for him: a baby son. But Romina wants love, not a husband; she’s living with Kofi (Mahershala Ali) and planning her future.

Fatherhood transforms Luke. Sneaking into a Catholic church to watch his son being baptized — a rite depicted here with refreshing reverence and accuracy — Luke has a tearful epiphany (the redemptive nature of water is a recurrent image throughout the film). He pledges to quit the circus, win Romina back and provide for his new family.

Sensible fathers resolved on such a course would get a proper job. Luke instead decides to rob banks, relying on his motorcycle skills for smooth getaways. He hooks up with Robin (Ben Mendelsohn), a demented auto-body mechanic and petty thief, to plan the heists.

They are initially very successful, but midway through the film, events take a dramatic turn. Avery (Bradley Cooper), a rookie cop, gets his big break when he has the chance to track down the elusive bank robber. Like Luke, Avery has a baby son, and has high hopes for his future.

To elaborate further would spoil the outcome of the film. Suffice it to say that Luke and Avery’s interaction has devastating consequences — not only for them, but for their families and, especially, their sons.

The picture offers a powerful message about temptation and relativism, as well as the role of conscience and the effect of one individual's actions on others; though the choices made by the conflicted characters are not, of course, always ideal ones.

The film contains action violence including gunplay, brief gore, frequent drug and alcohol use, a instance of distasteful humor, a scene of sensuality, and a couple of uses each of profane and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

(By Joseph McAleer, Catholic News Service)

‘The Big Wedding’

Audience:
O — morally offensive

 

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This loser movie offends everyone except the Hollywood crowd

Ah, Hollywood! It's a place where the RMS Titanic can be reconstructed down to the last detail and where audiences can be shown the unusual gait with which Abe Lincoln is said to have made his wise and melancholy way through the world. But, when it comes to a religion subscribed to by more than a billion people worldwide – well, why sweat the small stuff?

Thus we have the faux Catholicism that pervades the vulgar romantic comedy “The Big Wedding” (Lionsgate) — the flagrant erroneousness of which is only the most annoying of this picture’s many defects.

We’re fairly warned of what we’re in for in this regard, though: The very first line of dialogue compares the church, in a muddled but decidedly derogatory way, to oral sex.

And just what kind of a church do we get on screen? The kind where Father Moinighan (Robin Williams) — a straw man in a Roman collar — breezily informs Alejandro (Ben Barnes) and Missy (Amanda Seyfried), the couple preparing for marriage, that their indulgence in premarital sex and use of birth control will land them in hell.

Father doesn’t seem especially troubled by this prospect, and the couple is far too sophisticated to take his smug, ham-handed condemnation as anything but a joke.

Alejandro — a Harvard grad — also objects to the requirement that he promise to raise his children Catholic. Well, naturally he does — he’s educated, after all! But Alejandro’s troubles with the faith are just beginning. In this same interview, he learns from Missy that his hyper-pious Colombian mother Madonna (Patricia Rae) — who hasn’t come to visit him in the States since she gave him up for adoption — unexpectedly plans to attend the wedding.

This sets up the film's “Big Problem,” because Alejandro has never told Mom that his affluent adoptive parents, Don (Robert De Niro) and Ellie (Diane Keaton), are divorced.

Alejandro is so worried about the effect this scandalous bit of news will have on the perpetually rosary-clutching Madonna that he asks Don and Ellie to pretend they’re still married. They agree. Not surprisingly, however, the proposed arrangement leaves Don’s live-in girlfriend Bebe (Susan Sarandon) fuming.

As Don and Ellie’s awkward charade plays out, we get to know Alejandro’s sister Lyla (Katherine Heigl) — whose infertility has put her marriage on the rocks — as well as his brother Jared (Topher Grace). Jared is that supreme freak of nature in Tinseltown’s bestiary, the Adult Male Virgin.

As outmoded in his thinking as Father Moinighan, Jared, it seems, is “waiting for love.” Things could be worse, though; at least he’s not waiting for marriage.

Predictably, the arrival on the scene of yet another wedding guest, Madonna’s sultry daughter Nuria (Ana Ayora), soon has Jared reconsidering his eccentric resolve.

Bedroom complications are all-too-amicably resolved in the lead-up to Don’s payoff toast. In this oration, he compares God to the Wizard of Oz and announces that, since there’s no one pulling the cosmic strings, we’d better make the most of love. Or something to that effect.

Overall, the message seems to be that in a world with no man-behind-the-curtain. It’s fine to be confused as long as you’re not inhibited.

The film contains implied atheism, anti-Catholicism, flawed moral values, strong sexual content — including aberrant sex acts, rear nudity and a frivolous treatment of homosexuality and adultery — a couple of uses of profanity and much rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

(By John Mulderig, Catholic News Service)

Monthly List of Recent Film Ratings (May)

A
Across the Divide, A-II (no rating)
Admission, L (PG-13)
Amour, L (PG-13)
The Awakening, A-III (R)
B
Beautiful Creatures, L (PG-13)
The Big Wedding, O (R)
Bullet to the Head, O (R)
Bully, A-III (PG-13)
C
The Call, O (R)
Cloud Atlas, O (R)
The Croods, A-I (PG)
D
Dark Skies, A-III (PG-13)
Dead Man Down, O (R)
Dream House, L (PG-13)
E
Evil Dead, O (R)
F
42, A-III (PG-13)
G
GI Joe: Retaliation, A-III (PG-13)
A Good Day to Die Hard, L (R)
H
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, O (R)
Hellbound?, A-III (no rating)
The Host, A-III (PG-13)
Identity Thief, L (R)
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, L (PG-13)
Iron Man 3, A-III (PG-13)
J
Jack Reacher, L (PG-13)
Jack the Giant Slayer, A-II (PG-13)
K
Killer Elite, A-III (R)
L
The Last Exorcism Part II, L (PG-13)
The Last Stand, L (R)
M
Mama, A-III (PG-13)
Movie 43, O (R)
O
Oblivion, A-III (PG-13)
Olympus Has Fallen, L (R)
The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure, A-I (G)
Oz the Great and Powerful, A-II (PG)
P
Pain and Gain, O (R)
Parker, O (R)
Phantom, A-III (R)
The Place Beyond the Pines, L (R)
Q
Quartet, A-III (PG-13)
R
Restless Heart, A-II (no rating)
S
Safe Haven, L (PG-13)
Scary Movie 5, O (PG-13)
Side Effects, L (R)
Skyfall, A-III (PG-13)
Something Borrowed, L (PG-13)
T
Texas Chainsaw 3D, O (R)
21 and Over, O (R)
Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor, A-III (PG-13)
W
Warm Bodies, A-III (PG-13)

The first symbol after each title is the Catholic News Service classification. The second symbol is the rating of the Motion Picture Association of America.
CNS classifications: A-I -- general patronage; A-II -- adults and adolescents; A-III -- adults; L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling; O -- morally offensive.
MPAA ratings: G -- general audiences. All ages admitted; PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children; PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13; R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian; NC-17 -- no one 17 and under admitted.