United States of Leland
(Due to Gosling's abilities with a great script)
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Don Cheadle, Jena Malone, Chris
Klein, Kevin Spacey and Lena Olin
Directed/written by: Matthew Ryan Hoge
Speaking? Are you ready for a drama that doesn't try
to dumb itself down and cookie-cut its characters into a nice
little ideal of the world's youth? In other words, here, in The
United States of Leland, writer director Matthew Ryan Hoge
has developed a world for film that is truly of our world - dumbfounding
cruelty, oblivious caring, disconnected values and all. He shows
a slice of life that dwells beneath the happy model SUV driving
Stepford clones we are continually force fed as "society"
by entertainment, and delivers folks and their stories that could
be, may be, happening right next door.
a young man, Leland Fitzgerald (Ryan Gosling) has just
killed a mentally challenged kid. It's a horrific offense yet
he shows no remorse nor solace in the form of an explainable excuse
to the families he's devastated - his victim's or his own. Sound
a little too familiar
As we follow
an emotionally detached Leland through his narration of events,
he shares with us his inner pain that he hides from the rest of
the kid's problem? He has a good family. His father Albert (Kevin
Spacey) is a famous literary figure that lets him travel the world
mother (Lena Olin) is busy, but cares - a little, and he's got
a cute, if-a-bit self-destructive, gal pal (Gena Malone). Heck,
he'll have the cherry red sports car for graduation and be in
the ivy adorned dorm room by fall
at first glance.
As he nonchalantly,
and with an oddly kind heart, explains the timeline that lead
to his present state, we wince at the familiarity of the story
which could be ripped from a current shocking headline de Jour
from Anycity, USA.
old guilty and the world wants to know why he did it.
and awaiting his fate, Leland meets a would-be novelist disguised
as a mentor. His correctional institution teacher, Pearl Madison
(Don Cheadle) is fascinated by Leland; by what makes Leland tick.
Pearl also happens to be a "fan" of Leland's father's
writings. He goes so far as to try to interview the equally emotionless
father for his book
ultimately as Pearl gathers notes and bends facility rules for
his own agenda, he comes to an unexpected internal struggle with
his own his morality. What starts out manipulating the trust of
Leland, in hopes of the ultimate "why he did it" non-fictional
bestseller, turns into a subtle reverse manipulation - and Leland
wasn't even trying.
is a helluva film folks. The cast is delightful - great scripts
tend to attract great talents after all. Of particular note is
this rising behemoth who digs physical and emotional morphing
ala distinct character soirees, Ryan Gosling. The lad is steadfast
in creating a name for himself not as a gorgeous manlyberry heartthrob
(which he most certainly is), but as an actor who disappears into
his role and serves up layered performances that keep one going
to these "small" films.
wait! There's more fellow thespian snorting aficionados...you
get Don Cheadle, Jena Malone and Chris
Klein, all doing what they do when they do it - superbly. Oh,
Kevin Spacey? Well, this lug bolt of
pure manly talent isn't the star - it's Gosling's show - but as
always the man slips into his role (without ego) and lets the
ensemble work as a unit - "Joe Actor" - and lets others
get the kudos while still anchoring scenes.
offers no concrete answers to why a seemingly straight laced kid
murders a lamb of sorts, and it's precisely that - the lack of
blatant answers - that leaves you a bit disturbed and in conversation
when the house lights come up.
are a few film faux pas; a couple of grandious melodramatic snippets
here and there, and a pinch of editorial snafus there. But, for
this being Hoge's first feature, his caliber of material, and
the impeccable talent within, the nit-picking is a mute point.
I challenge you not to be completely moved at the film's chilling
recommendation: A Tums© Martini
and an Otho-Novum Shooter