Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|The United States of Leland|
Actors: Ryan Gosling, Don Cheadle, Kevin Spacey, Chris Klein, Jena Malone
Director: Matthew Ryan Hoge
Genres: Drama, Mystery & Suspense
The United States of Leland isn't a whodunit. The opening scenes of Matthew Ryan Hoge's unusual murder mystery make it clear that Leland P. Fitzgerald (The Believer's Ryan Gosling) is the killer. But why did he kill? Now t... more »
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Member Movie Reviews
Tara C. (ohsonaughty)
Reviewed on 12/31/2010...
Great drama but very sad. Keep some tissues nearby!
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
The Ethics of Pain
Luca Graziuso | NYC | 07/07/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The premise is rather simple. A teenager, awkward, introvert and burdened with a sensibility that sears his heart to numbness, commits an inexplicable murder. An atrocious one at that. The victim is his girlfriend's brother, Bryan, who is an 11 year old severely autistic nonentity. The main role of Leland Fitzgerald is interpreted by Ryan Gosling with such compelling anguish that it magnifies the complexity of a fragile spirit to such a degree we cannot psychologize the troubled youth because we are disoriented as we observe the indomitable suffering Leland attempts to silence. Likewise we are given a stark visual of the two sets of parents, the questions that harrow them and the way the tragedy unravels what seemed to be a world pulling at the seams of every thread.
The emotionally detached Leland retraces his steps thanks to the invasive insistance of his juvenile hall educator Pearl Madison, admirably played by Don Cheadle, who is undergoing moral dilemmas of his own. Pearl's feigned confidence is contrasted with confounding and disarming depth to Leland's innocent aloofness. The emotional texture of the movie is further enriched by strands of a narrative that follows Bryan's other sister who is unsettled and dejected, an 18 year old who is not allowed to search and delve within her own turbulance. She breaks up with her boyfriend, he too a timid soul reaching for a stability that teeters on the brink of injected scrupolousness. If you then add the torpor and emotional sterility that Leland's dad, an accomplished bestselling author whose fame rests on his descriptive novels that indemnify suburbia, you have in focus a portrait of such a philosophical, psychological and ethical intensity undeniably impressive, expressive and teeming with the brute force that sterilizes our lives as it designates its shallow characteristics. Much more may well be added in terms of the narrative, for it deploys innumerable details that trace a perspective that becomes dissolved just when it seems to have become solidified most. The director, Matthew Ryan Hoge, frames the movie in such a way as to mesmerize the viewer through the autopsy of a society that in the wake of a murder discovers how much everything else is dead within. The motion-sickness tremble of the photographic ambiance of these quivering soulscapes, given full force, reaches a climactic burst when things seem to make sense again and our code of ethics reinstated with trust. It is in that precise moment that a second murder makes the depth of the movie's conscience become too vast for imperatives of psychology or social commentary. The movie stirs, moves, and shocks, but best of all it illuminates the pain of lives gone numb and that dorment force that craves reawakening."
Ambiguous story about struggle between right and wrong
Linda Linguvic | New York City | 05/08/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"What is right? What is wrong? It isn't easy to draw the line. That's the theme of this film written and directed by a new, untested writer/director Mathew Hoge. Ryan Gosling stars as Leland, a troubled teenager who has murdered a retarded boy. It's a horrific crime and it impacts his small community. Nobody understands why he did it and he doesn't deny the charges. While awaiting trial he's sent to Juvenile Hall. There, in a classroom, he starts a notebook entitled "The United States of Leland' in which he writes about his life. His teacher, Don Cheadle, is an aspiring writer. He befriends the troubled youth but, as we get to know his character, we soon see that he is struggling with his own values. There's a lot of serious conversation between the two with many close-ups on Gosling who seems wise beyond his years. The setting is the Juvenile Hall but that is downplayed in the film. There's only a small amount of focus on any other person other than Gosling. In flashbacks we learn about his attraction to the sister of the retarded youth he murdered, played by Jena Malone. And there's a whole story within a story about her drug addiction and other sister and a young man without parents who lives with the family and is romancing the sister. Kevin Spacey is cast as Ryan Gosling's divorced father, a successful writer who hasn't seen his son since the boy was six years old. And there's one particular confrontation between the teacher and the father which is a high point of the film. Mostly, this is an intentionally ambiguous story as each of the characters struggle with issues of morality. However, even though the acting was excellent, the characters never seemed real to me. There's lots of dialog and little action and nothing is ever really resolved. The conclusion is rather contrived by yet appropriate and, at the end, I was left with some open questions to think about."
Kevin Spacey's Sequel to American Beauty
stephen e mcgregor | chantilly, VA United States | 06/09/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have rarely witnessed such depth of thought and feeling in an American film. This one made every other American film I have seen recently seem superficial. Kevin Spacey seems to be on the brink of being the premier artistic commentator on suburban family values. What a fresh approach to try to explore the deep thread of unhappiness within the American Dream. Teenage Leland's motivation for killing the unfortunate child (for whom he has the greatest sympathy)is not anger, which is cable TV's perpetual answer, but sadness, sadness at the human condition. This movie puts me into Dostoyevsky's world and I never expected this in American film. Every character is sympathetic because their real and not conventional feelings are revealed. I have not seen such astonishing humanity in a long time, if ever. Maybe in Boys Don't Cry but this film does not have the lurid overtones, just the quiet but overwhelming feel of humanity denied in a materialistic American culture."