HEAD'S UP, ladies - there's a movie out featuring Bradley Cooper and Ryan Gosling, though it's possible you haven't heard of it.
It's called "The Place Beyond the Pines," and it's lolling about on only a few dozen screens nationally, despite its extremely high handsome-guy quotient.
Why the low profile? "Pines" is a serious art film - one clue is that Cooper and Gosling do their usual fine work while sporting career-worst hair, designed for maximum deglamourization. Gosling has hyper-blond bangs, and gave me Macaulay Culkin flashbacks. Cooper is playing a cop - a cop who gets his hair cut by the same barber who does Kim Jong Un.
So, it's not a movie you go to for glamour. And it's not, say, "Silver Linings Playbook," a movie about romantic possibility.
In fact, it's the work of cinema's leading poet of romantic impossibility, Derek Cianfrance, who last directed Gosling in "Blue Valentine," a downbeat ode to dead-end love - muted, mournful, plotless.
The tone remains, but this time Cianfrance is very interested in story, and has created here an ambitious multi-general epic with inter-connected stories cleverly aligned in three broad sections.
Gosling plays a carny motorcyclist who roles into Schenectady and meets up with a woman (Eva Mendez) with a secret that moves Gosling to drop his wayward life and settle down.
He has ideas about how to provide for her - all really bad. One involves using his cycling skills to become a bank-robbing getaway man, and this brings him into the orbit of a Schenectady cop (Cooper).
At this point, the movie splits into Part Two and follows the officer - his career as a cop, crusader, a political opportunist, framed by a fraught marriage (to Rose Byrne).
All of this sets up the third section of the movie, advanced a generation. Two teens (Dane DeHaan, Emory Cohen) discover how their restive lives are connected to some of the town's forgotten tragedies and buried secrets.
Cianfrance likes stories about the thwarted impulses of love - romantic love, and here, the love of fathers for their sons.
The movie has much to recommend it. Cianfrance has a way with actors and his style - intimate, unhurried, benefits from the kind of dense plotting he has here.
And yet, when it's all about the story, and not so much about Gosling and Cooper, the movies goes slack when it needs their energy the most.