Trailer Face-Off: The Brass Teapot vs. The Place Beyond the Pines

Michael Hafford








Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week:
The Brass Teapot vs. The Place Beyond the Pines, two movies about trying to make it in present-day America.

Premise
Both The Brass Teapot and Beyond the Pines are movies about trying to make it work with a family in America. That's where the similarities end. In Teapot, a young married couple (Michael Angarano and Juno Temple) discovers a teapot that spits out cash whenever they hurt themselves—so they do what anyone would do and begin inflicting grievous self-harm. Eventually, a pair of Orthodox Jews show up and beat up Angarano so they can take the teapot back to its rightful owner: their grandmother, who protected it through the Holocaust. Hijinks ensue as Angarano and Temple must fight not only the men who want to take their antique back, but also their own impulses to hurt themselves. The Place Beyond the Pines is a much more serious look at the lengths to which Ryan Gosling's character will go to create a good life for his and real-life-girlfriend Eva Mendes' baby. Gosling is a motorcycle stunt rider at carnivals who discovers that he's sired a child with Mendes and decides to quit his borderline-legitimate job as a carny to rob banks using his dirt bike skills. Bradley Cooper stars across from him as a clean cop on a dirty police force. Any time you start with Ryan Gosling, you're getting the advantage in the premise department.
Advantage:
The Place Beyond the Pines

Whatever It Takes

It's hard to say who will to go further lengths to make a place for their family in the land of the free. On the one hand, Angarano and Temple literally hurt themselves to live, albeit in fairly lavish fashion. On the other, Gosling gives up his "glamorous" job as a carnival worker to start robbing rural banks on a motorcycle. He and Mendes really do not look happy. Neither does Cooper, who has some sort of complex relationship with Ray Liotta. Of the two, the path that Angarano and Temple take seems a lot more fun. The only thing they put on the line is temporary discomfort: in Angarano's case, being punched in the face; in Temple's, getting a Brazilian and asking Angarano to spank her. Gosling and Cooper put their own lives and livelihoods on the line in Pines. Both of them make real and big sacrifices to help their families. Suffice to say that if they each had teapots of their own, they would not exactly be strapped for cash.
Advantage:
The Place Beyond the Pines

Special Skills
Does Ryan Gosling starting off the trailer shirtless count as a special skill? Yes, yes it does, and he looks to ride a mean motorcycle. The man wants to provide for his family using his stunt riding skills, he wants to provide for the audience with his chase scenes, and he wants to provide for America with his bleached-blond hair. Angarano's special skill seems to be getting punched in the face a lot by a variety of people. Temple's appears to be not that far off that mark. Their main attribute is possession of this teapot, which could really go at any time.
Advantage:
The Place Beyond the Pines

Get Rich Quick

Both of these movies are about trying to short-circuit the Protestant work ethic by putting life and limb on the line. Gosling's bank-robbing plan, in the world of the trailer, does not seem to be a very lucrative one. Temple and Angarano, by contrast, are much more successful. Their scheme trades the soul-sucking emotional pain of gradually subsuming oneself to the identity of a corporation for the immediate physical pain of having a pair of black hats whack them with billy clubs. Doesn't seem like such a bad deal, all things considered, especially if it works.
Advantage:
The Brass Teapot

Opposition
The aforementioned Orthodox Jewish men are the villains of The Brass Teapot; although it seems like by the end that Temple and Angarano might realize that the real villains are, wait for it, themselves. Whoa. Cooper, in Pines, plays opposite Gosling as the workaday cop who just wants to do things the right way, regardless of the consequences. His commitment to his ethos of hard work and honesty stands in stark contrast to Gosling's flashier, motorcycle-stunt-riding persona. Their conflicts may be internal in nature, but they are played out on screen as the two go head-to-head with not only each other but their superiors as well.
Advantage:
The Brass Teapot

Directors
Ramaa Mosley directs her first feature with The Brass Teapot, which is always dangerous territory. It's hard to say whether that's a good thing or a bad one, but there's a wide range of possible performance from her. Derek Cianfrance is best known for Blue Valentine, another dark movie that put Gosling in a tumultuous relationship with his female co-star. He is, without a doubt, a competent and, some would say, highly gifted filmmaker who knows how to get memorable performances from his actors.
Advantage:
The Place Beyond the Pines

Verdict
A reunion of two of the three principals from Blue Valentine is an almost certain recipe for success. Although The Brass Teapot might be more fun to watch, the safe bet for really good cinema is on The Place Beyond the Pines.
Winner:
The Place Beyond the Pines


Trailer Face-Off runs every Thursday. For more, click here.

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April 2014

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