The place behind ‘the Pines’

VERMONTVILLE – Two minutes isn’t much in a nearly two-and-a-half-hour film, but residents here are enjoying their town’s brief moment on the big screen.

The closing scenes of “The Place Beyond the Pines,” a gritty crime drama directed by Derek Cianfrance, were filmed on Norman Ridge Road in Vermontville in late September 2011. The movie, which stars Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper and Eva Mendes, is in theaters now, including at the Palace Theatre in Lake Placid.

It’s essentially three intertwined stories about fathers, sons and the often tragic consequences of the decisions people make. The first storyline follows Luke, a motorcycle stunt rider played by Gosling, who learns he has a son from a one-night stand a year before with Romina (Mendes’ character). To provide for the boy, Luke turns to robbing banks, which leads to a shootout with an ambitious rookie cop named Avery, played by Cooper, who also has a 1-year-old son.

The second plot line follows Cooper’s character as he becomes caught in a web of police corruption. The third section of the film picks up some 15 years later and centers on Luke and Avery’s sons.

Most of “The Place Beyond the Pines” was shot in and around Schenectady, where the film is set. The title refers to the Mohawk indian source of the city’s name.

A year-and-a-half after the filming wrapped up, Vermontville residents who witnessed or heard of the Norman Ridge shoot have finally gotten a chance to see “The Pines” on the big screen.

“It was fun for us to see it, for sure,” said Beth Edgley, who brought her family to a showing at the Palace Theatre in Lake Placid when it first came out last month.

Edgley’s family farm on Norman Ridge was used in the final shots of the film, in which Jason, a teenager played by actor Dane DeHaan, buys a motorcycle from an old man, wheels it out of a barn and rides off down the road.

“It was like, ‘Oh, there’s our barn. There’s August tree,’ a big tree that’s near the barn that was named after a guy that worked on Tom Norman’s farm when they had it,” Edgley said Monday. “They don’t do a big panoramic shot, so you don’t see Whiteface, but you do see Moose and McKenzie mountains. It’s really focusing on the kid riding down the bike down Norman Ridge Road.

“If you didn’t know that it was the Adirondacks, you wouldn’t recognize it,” Edgley added. “It was pretty quick, but for us it was fun.”

The scene before that was filmed just down the road, at a white farmhouse owned by Barbara Rottier. In the movie, Jason walks up a dirt driveway to the house, knocks on the front door and tells the old man he’s the one who called about the motorcycle.

“They were interested in using the house and the scenic area around it as a backdrop for part of the film, and we said, ‘Sure,'” Dick Jarvis, Rottier’s partner, said Tuesday. “It was their last day of shooting. It was a beautiful sunny day like this. They did so many takes, and every take they had to have absolute silence. We didn’t get much work done that day.”

“We watched from the garage (of another house on the property),” Rottier said. “It was pretty cool. To us, it was interesting to see what they did and how they did it. They were all very nice people.”

Rottier and Jarvis said they hadn’t seen the movie yet but plan to.

“The Place Beyond the Pines” has received largely positive reviews since it was released. It has an 81 percent positive review rating on the film review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes and a 7.7 out of 10 rating on the Internet Movie Database. Chicago Sun-Times film critic Richard Roeper gave it four stars out of five. Variety, Entertainment Weekly and New York Times movie reviewer A.O. Scott gave the film somewhat less stellar marks.

Asked what she thought about the movie, Edgley said it wasn’t necessarily uplifting.

“For me, it was OK,” she said. “It gives you a view of what life can be like and the difficulties and temptations, and lives that are in turmoil. It makes you appreciate it if you’re not dealing with those kinds of things in your life.”

Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or