Movie Mom

Movie Mom


The United States of Leland

posted by rkumar
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Profanity:Very strong language
Nudity/Sex:Sexual references and situations
Alcohol/Drugs:Drug use, including heroin, drinking, smoking
Violence/Scariness:Violence, characters killed
Diversity Issues:Strong African-American character
Movie Release Date:2004

The murder mystery at the center of this overly plotted but beautifully acted movie is not the who but the why.

Leland (Ryan Gosling) seems like a reasonably pleasant and easy-going kid. And then one day he kills a developmentally disabled boy, the brother of his girlfriend. It isn’t that no one seems to know the reason. It seems that there just was no reason. Leland had always been polite to everyone and kind and gentle with the boy, volunteering to walk him home from school.

A cop dismisses Leland as just another SFK (sick f-ing kid). But he does not seem angry or violent or unstable. He does not even seem upset. He is cooperative and truthful, so placid that his affect is almost entirely flat.

In the juvenile facility where Leland is put in “special treatment,” he hands his teacher an American history workbook. He has amended the cover to say “The United States of Leland.” The teacher, a frustrated writer named Pearl (Don Cheadle), is intrigued. Pearl is stuck in his own writing and cannot find a way to tell his own story. He thinks maybe he will be able to tell Leland’s.

Leland’s father (co-producer Kevin Spacey) is also a writer, a very successful novelist who can write about people with enormous sensitivity and compassion but is aloof, even merciless in his interactions with other people. He cannot do much to help Leland, but he can stop Pearl from appropriating and exploiting his story.

But Leland wants someone to listen, and Pearl is all he has. Will Pearl, or Leland’s father, or Leland himself understand why Leland committed such a terrible crime? Will we? Or is knowing that we cannot really know what matters?

I am not sure even the people who made the movie have the answer to that one. The script has the overheated, overblown, over-everything feel of an actor’s exercise extravaganza. Each character has some major emotional challenge and it gets overloaded and distracting. But the individual moments, especially Gosling’s performance, are sensitive and moving and the issues of the damage we inflict on ourselves and each other are worth examining, even less than successfully.

Parents should know that this movie has very mature themes. A teenager murders a developmentally disabled boy. Characters drink (reference to alcohol abuse), smoke, take drugs (a teenager is addicted to heroin), and use extremely strong language. There are sexual references and situations.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Leland showed no emotion about what he did. Why was telling the story important to him? Why eas it important to Pearl? What did Leland’s father want for Leland? Why was Mrs. Calderon so important to Leland? What does the story of Pearl’s name tell us?

Families who appreciate this movie will also appreciate Ordinary People, Manic (also starring Cheadle), The River’s Edge, Permanent Record, and Eqqus.



Previous Posts

Behind the Scenes Clip: Adam Levine in "Begin Again"
[iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/RhZTVijgpb8?rel=0" frameborder="0"] I have one copy of the wonderful soundtrack to give away!  Send me an email at moviemom@moviemom.com with Levine in the subject line and tell me your favorite song of the summer.  Don't forget your

posted 3:59:43pm Jul. 30, 2014 | read full post »

Interview: Thunder Levin of "Sharknado" and "Sharknado 2"
One of the highlights of Comic-Con was the chance to catch up with Thunder Levin, screenwriter of the sensation, "Sharknado" and the sequel, "Sharknado 2," which premieres tonight on Syfy.  The original was remarkable for its over-the-top storyline and even more for the Twitter-nado it inspired.  

posted 7:37:17am Jul. 30, 2014 | read full post »

Contest Winner -- "Earth to Echo's" GoPro Camera
Thanks to all who entered!  This contest had far more entries than any other I've ever run.  Congratulations to the lucky winner! WINNER OF THE GOPRO CAMERA: Susan D. Burkburnett, TX  

posted 11:54:55pm Jul. 29, 2014 | read full post »

Intuition -- A Short Film from Danielle Lurie
I love this short film from Danielle Lurie about a young woman who needs to learn to listen to her heart, with a wonderful performance by Montse Muñoz. [vimeo]https://vimeo.com/101953117[/vimeo]

posted 10:09:01am Jul. 29, 2014 | read full post »

Interview: Joseph Nasser of "Amber Alert: Terror on the Highway"
Reserve Police Officer Joseph Nasser produced Amber Alert: Terror on the Highway to help raise awareness of the Amber Alert system. It stars Tom Berenger as a man on the edge, making a dead rush for Mexico and kidnapping two young girls along the way. He is hotly pursued by police chief Martha Geig

posted 8:00:33am Jul. 28, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.