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L.I.E.
2001 - R - 97 Mins.
Director: Michael Cuesta
Producer: Rene Bastian, Michael Cuesta
Written By: Michael Cuesta, Stephen M. Ryder, Gerald Cuesta
Starring: Brian Cox, Paul Dano, Billy Kay
Review by: Harrison Cheung
Official Site: www.lot47.com/
   
A controversial film festival favorite when it was released in 2001, ‘L.I.E.’ is a disturbing view of suburbia that rings truer than Larry Clark's ‘KIDS’ or ‘BULLY’ and has a kinship with 2004’s superb ‘MEAN CREEK.’ Originally rated NC-17 for sexuality, the DVD was cut back to an R rating.

Howie (Paul Dano) is a sensitive fifteen-year-old lost soul. He recently lost his mother who was killed in a car accident on the Long Island Expressway (L.I.E.). He pals around with a group of classmates who spend their free time breaking into homes, doing drugs and having unusual sexual experiences that serve as initiation rites into manhood – like the titular expressway, you can either take the ‘straight’ exit or the ‘gay’ exit. To add to Howie's problems, his father is pre-occupied with his own new, pneumatic girlfriend and is having major business headaches. Howie's best friend and partner in crime, Gary (Bill Kay), is stirring homoerotic feelings in him, and yes, he's doing badly in school.

’L.I.E.’ could have been an after school special about how abandoned kids go bad - but with foul language, a little bit of violence, and one startling surprise - the superb British actor, Brian Cox (‘THE BOURNE IDENTITY’), who plays the neighborhood pedophile, Big John. With a nod and a wink, his custom license plates read "BJ" which are both his initials and his favorite pastime. Before ‘L.I.E.’ has the chance of going straight into a sleazy soap opera, first-time writer/director Michael Cuesta crafts a sad, sensitive story of how a boy can find comfort in bad places.

It's an unconventional approach that might make some viewers uneasy. ‘L.I.E.’ was heavily criticized for portraying a pedophile in a sympathetic light. Brian Cox's interpretation of the local pervert is unique. He's a big happy man who sings Irish songs, drives a classic muscle car, knows everyone in the neighborhood, and has a big warm inviting house. He is jovial and likeable – so much so, that everyone turns a blind eye to his nocturnal activities. It would be too easy and conventional for Big John to take advantage of Howie's misery and to seduce him but ultimately, ‘L.I.E.’ does a tough balancing act. One by one, as Howie loses faith in his best friend, his father, the school, the system, you name it, he ends up having only one friend to turn to.

As a storyteller, Michael Cuesta has crafted a relentless and disturbing little drama. It lacks the humor and easy camaraderie in 'MEAN CREEK' and the quizzical nature of 'UNITED STATES OF LELAND' - another suburbia gone wrong drama. It doesn't follow conventions and clearly, ‘L.I.E.’ doesn't want to. Where a fifteen-year-old finds comfort and support is the beginning of a tragedy but 'L.I.E.' impresses with its quiet anger and reality. We don't get the Larry Clark nihilism where similar kids are powered by cartoon violence and a rap soundtrack. ‘L.I.E.’ is set in a blander, white neighborhood that seems so unremarkable and upper-middle class that the activities of its teens seem like a parallel universe. With its effective cast and unusual, disturbing story, you may not enjoy ‘L.I.E.’ but you won’t easily forget it either.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental.
  3.5 out of 5 stars

 
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