By the end of "The Place Beyond the Pines," Anne Forth found herself choking up.
The lifelong city resident was moved by the subtle nuances of the film — the ethereal moments that made the film reflect the true nature of Schenectady. She found the actors blended into their surroundings, becoming characters that could have been plucked out of reality and placed into the narrative Derek Cianfrance crafted for the film.
"I thought it was a tearjerker," she said after watching a matinee Friday at Bow Tie Cinema's Movieland 6. "I was moved to tears."
Her friend, Rose DiCerbo of Schenectady, was equally pleased by the 140-minute film and how it portrayed the city — its blemishes and its beauty— and how the plot seemed to fit perfectly.
"It was one of the best movies I've seen in years," she said.
Others were left wondering whether they would have liked the film as much were it not for the local angle. Union College seniors Nicole Julich and Catherine O'Brien mulled this dilemma as they exited the theater following a late-afternoon showing.
Both found "Pines" to have a jagged edge they didn't expect, a dark element that seemed to drive the plot. But that seemed fitting for them, considering the city where it was primarily filmed.
"It showed Schenectady for all it has," Julich said.
Crowds seeing "Pines" in Schenectady generally agreed. The film shot exclusively on location drew good reviews from many of the people who flocked to see it during its national debut.
At Movieland, the theaters showing "Pines" stayed packed throughout the day. Bow Tie sold out a late-night showing Thursday and added a third screen to accommodate crowds Friday evening, after the company's two largest theaters were filled by advance sales. A late-afternoon showing also nearly filled a 250-plus seat theater, leaving only a handful of seats open in the front rows.
Cianfrance's triptych drama tells a multi-generational story of crime and consequences. The narrative begins in Schenectady during the mid-1990s and depicts how one mistake can cause ripples that impact others many years into the future.
Ciafrance's strict attention to detail wasn't lost on area residents who flocked to see the film. Many chuckled when the on-screen characters would make mention of places or say things that are distinctly Schenectady.
Like when Luke Glanton, a stunt motorcycle rider-turned bank robber played Ryan Gosling, proclaims he's going to "hit TrustCo on Brandywine and then the 1st National in Rotterdam." Or when Avery Cross, a wounded Schenectady cop played by Bradley Cooper, is given a sausage and pepper sub from Civitello's — a popular deli and bakery that is an age-old part of the city's Little Italy neighborhood.
Brenda Dictuttalo of Ballston Lake and Marybeth Relyea of Burnt Hills were pleased with the film after seeing it Friday and will likely watch it again when it's released on video. For them, the film was about seeing its star power — Gosling in specific.
"The fact that it was filmed around here was a bonus," Relyea said.
For others, the location didn't make a difference in their opinion of the film. Cambria and Tim Larson saw the film while visiting Schenectady as part of the production of Peter Pan now playing at Proctors. Both found it an enjoyable movie without knowing much about the city.
"It gives you something to think about and process," Cambria Larson said of the film.
Movie critics have given "Pines" decidedly mixed, but generally positive, reviews. Of the 137 reviews posted on RottenTomatoes.com, a website devoted to film reviews, 111 are considered positive.
But mixed reviews are to be expected, Cianfrance said during a red carpet premiere Thursday at Movieland. The director said he intended to create a film that pushes his audience to ponder.
"The divisiveness to me is a sign of a movie that's doing what it should do," he said. "People are talking about it. People are arguing about it. It's creating a conversation."
Alex Orlovsky, one of the film's producers, agreed. He said the mixed reaction to "Pines" is something he expected.
"We knew we were setting out to make a really ambitious film. The structure was something that hadn't really been done for a while," he said. "Some people appreciated it more than others, but overall, the response has been overwhelmingly positive."
Maria Muniz of Rotterdam was among those left with a positive impression of the film. She was pleased enough after watching the premiere Thursday that she returned with a friend for the Friday evening showing.
During the premiere, she found herself caught in the imagery of Schenectady and the realistic feeling Cianfrance created on screen. She said her second time watching the film would be devoted to appreciating its dramatic narrative.
"I'm watching it from a different perspective this time and to appreciate the film for what it is," she said.