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L.I.E



Starring: Brian Cox, Paul Franklin Dano, Billy Kay, Bruce Altman, James Costa and Tony Michael Donnelly

Directed by: Michael Cuesta
Rated: NC-17
Interview w/co-writer Stephen Ryder

This is one of the most disturbing, brilliant, mesmerizing films I have seen in perhaps, a decade. Too bold? Well, it's a week later and I am still running the characters through my head. Shocking, revealing, and the kind of film that you find your hand repeatedly and uncontrollably moving itself up to cover your mouth to shadow your dropped jaw over and over again.

L.I.E. is an intense, intelligent film that grabs you from the first frame and holds on till the last credit rolls by. Director Michael Cuesta, who wrote and directed L.I.E along with Stephen M Ryder, has created an eerie snapshot of a boy's life just as he's coming of age while his life is falling apart around him, yet he still manages to find himself all within the span of about a week.

Howie Blitzer (a stellar performance by Paul Franklin Dano)is fifteen and lives in Long Island near the infamous Expressway. He knows many people have lost their lives there— the famous and not so famous—but most importantly, his mother Sylvia. Howie says at the top of the film "On the Long Island Expressway there are lanes going east, lanes going west, and lanes going straight to hell." That's the film's prelude in a metaphoric tone for what's to come.

After the loss of his mother, Howie is left with his self absorbed, shady father Marty (a man with a DNA drop of Bruce Willis, Bruce Altman ) who's in his own life altering stage at present and is nearly oblivious to Howie's life crisis'.

As most teens do he simply dives into outside friendships to replace the losses...Howie hangs with the tougher boys in his neighborhood. They are that crass and baby faced breed of teens that are as dangerous and cuddly as baby rattlers. The "gang" robs houses more for the hell of it then necessity without a thought for their actions.

One of these fellows Gary (Billy Kay) asks Howie to go in on a little side break-in. Howie is semi-smitten in more ways than one with young stud in the making Gary and agrees to go along on the heist.

Gary explains he knows a place where there's a treasure trove of stuff just waiting to be taken, easy as getting cigarettes from a convenience store clerk with your dad's I.D.. The two hit the house, sneaking in through the cellar, as the owners' party is in full swing above their derelict little heads.

When Howie knocks over the fine china vase teetering on the edge of oblivion the two skedattle but not before the homes owner, Big John (Brian Cox) manages to rip a bit of the shirt off one of the boys...

Big John's pretty upset. He sniffs the snippet of cloth from the shirt and begins the hunt. He heads right to Gary's stomping ground. Gary and he are old "friends" of sorts. When confronted, Gary immediately confesses how the other boy, Howie, set the whole thing up. Big John then goes after Howie. He gets him, and the games begin.

Howie quickly discovers both his friend Gary and Big John have secret lives. Big John, BJ, is a pedophile that has paid Gary for sexual favors for quite some time. Howie is not shocked or even disgusted, surprisingly. He accepts it and, while disturbed about the events doesn't seem shocked. I found it very believable with all his age group knows and sees in "their" worlds today. It's an under society, their society; from guns at school to hard-core drugs, sexual encounters (hopefully with, at least the same age group) and they just live with it while trying to fit in, look cool and make it through puberty.

Howie begins, at first, to toy with the immensely creepy pedophile Big John, and then even have an odd respect for him. He finds a nurturing friend, yech, a father figure in Big John. I know, I know, hard to fathom. I haven't lost my mind, it's the screenwriters who have managed to bewitch me and the whole audience. Big John's a scumpod with a heart of gold...no that's not right is it.

That is what is so amazing about the film. This movie showed the depth of humans and their facades. Big John's a pedophile, and a predator, but even he has his boundaries. Howie and Big John meet when Howie is the most vulnerable. Howie's got no father figure in his life, he's having fantasies about boys, especially this Gary, and he has no idea what the future is expecting of him. People like Big John salivate at these kinds of opportunities, or do they?

It's strong movie with many incredible performances. There will be a big controversy around L.I.E. because of its bluntness, honesty and willingness to show real life. The makers haven't prettied up one frame for the Disney audience. In fact the MPAA has given it a NC-17 rating- though I don't understand why- honestly.

No, this is not a film for everyone. And certainly it will not be one for families to join and view over the Thanksgiving turkey, while grandpa reminisces about the time he experimented...but it is an important film about secret lives, multidimensional lives, and lies.

Brian Cox, the actor who plays the repulsive Big John fellow gave an academy award winning performance. He was at once creepy, and charming, slimy and silly. His intenseness volleying with jovial pats on the back made him a particularly menacing villain. One you could actually like, if you were not so repulsed by what his extra curricular activities were. Brilliant.

Young actor Paul Franklin Dano was amazing in his ability to make us feel his confusion and get under the skin of a teen that has no one to turn to. His character was intelligent and probably closer to what the teens of today are like. They know a hell of a lot and they are not so easily shocked. He's the anti-Haley Joel Osment.

Billy Kay, the boy playing Gary, has an air about him. A strong young actor with the face of a cherub and the stance of a James Dean in the making.

Be warned this movie does contain graphic discussion of gay and pedophiliac nature. There are no sexual acts (thank God).

Snack Recommendation: Nada, your stomach turns too often for food products.

 

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