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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 30.65%
Just Average: 1.61%
Pretty Crappy: 19.35%
Sucks: 12.9%

5 reviews, 32 user ratings

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United States of Leland, The
[AllPosters.com] Buy posters from this movie
by Laura Kyle

"I want America back, Leland."
2 stars

If you were to eat from a buffet of philosophy, intrigue, and psychological mystery, UNITED STATES OF LELAND would be the leftovers if fat Aunt Marcy had already made it through the line.

US of L (a film unworthy of me typing out its pretentious title in entirety) is one of those movies that wants you to exclaim "Why?!?!" and then not give you an answer, just for the sake of getting your panties into a twist. However, not caring about "why" in the first place, may piss you off a little bit more. The latter is the case with director/writer Mathew Hoge's latest, and second only to date, cinematic effort.

Hoge's all-star cast only prop up his weak movie with their big names, and include the likes of Don Cheadle, Kevin Spacey, Michelle Williams, Jena Malone, and Ryan Gosling. Star Gosling plays the title character, Leland, a sensitive, quiet, mumbling, contemplative, and incredibly annoying teen, who right from the start is thrown in a detention center on charges of murdering a retarded boy. We don't see the murder, it is only implied, and a good deal of the US of L plot is a series of flashbacks involving various characters, all linked to Leland. Spacey is his distant father, Jena Malone is his love interest and the sister of the dead retarded kid, and Don Cheadle shows up the most - in the present, as Leland's intrigued teacher in Juvie. Lastly, Chris Klein turns in an expectedly lifeless portrayal as Jena's sister's boyfriend.

The underdeveloped characters and minor subplots beg for attention, but fall flat, only coming off as contrived ways of tying together Leland's overall message that "maybe bad stuff happens so you can see the good stuff, etc". Yes, that is a real line. Leland is intended to to be an insightful, slightly odd, possible genius and ultimately a victim of inevitable chaos (I think), but I couldn't give a rat's ass about his stunning revelations on life about how people invent a "tug-of-wars" between "God and the Devil." Well, duh. You don't need a high IQ to figure that one out. Gosling makes a huge effort to do his best aloof and detached intellectual doesn't-look-like-a-killer-but-is-one impression, yet making sad eyes and walking funny really is not enough to push him into even the remotest realm of believability.

After all of the confusing, interrelated stories and arty hoopla, the only thing a moviegoer can take away from Us of L is that maybe shit just happens, and uh, tears don't bring people back to life, and...did Hoge ever take Life 101? And if so, why is he under the impression the rest of the world didn't and is in desperate need of its lessons being taught in a puzzling, over-ambitious manner?

The potentially poignant moments are replaced with forced melodrama, and the real depths of US of L are out of the moviegoer's reach, because Hoge and Gosling do not appear to know what the hell they are talking about.

US OF L occasionally succeeds in its charming details and sometimes it does hint at something bigger than itself, but at the same time it is too excited with its own petty themes and lame storytelling to ever be effective. I give Hoge a smiley face sticker for effort, but I can only sigh in frustration with concern to his final product.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=6880&reviewer=369
originally posted: 11/16/04 19:39:13
[printer] printer-friendly format  
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2004 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

6/10/09 Mohammed Mamdouh This film will be as great as Citizen Kane some day. There are some complex issues here 5 stars
10/17/05 Laci a m a z i n g. 5 stars
9/26/05 PAULINA ELIZABETH HERNANDEZ LOPEZ its not another stupid youthmovie, its deeper and makes u think about quality of life 5 stars
3/28/05 deeh it was freakin awesome! i'm gettin everything ever made that has to do witht this movie :) 5 stars
1/26/05 Darryl Very different, with interesting characters. 4 stars
12/12/04 david grohl great movie, if you have the intelligence, it makes you think 5 stars
11/22/04 Linus great film 5 stars
10/24/04 Mike Doyle If you're intelligent this film will makes sense. 4 stars
9/23/04 russell stelly the best movie of 2004 so far 5 stars
9/21/04 Colleen Hm. I usually am a harsh rater for movies, but I really liked this. Great script/meaing. 4 stars
6/13/04 ezrgd Not taken literally, Leland is committing suicide by killing his "sadness" 4 stars
6/02/04 Elizabeth Very compelling film, though it tries to juggle a few too many subplots. 4 stars
4/06/04 Steve Drake One cliche after another, nasty exploitation of "mercy killing" theme 1 stars
2/22/04 Charlie A very sincere movie. I hope it does well. 5 stars
2/01/04 clare the best film i've seen all year, Ryan gosling gives another breathtaking performance 5 stars
1/31/04 anthony smith excellent message portrayed brilliantly! 5 stars
1/22/04 David As a father of an Autistic child I will see this film banned from my country. 1 stars
11/14/03 Kira Saw this movie at sundance last year, and I'm thrilled that it finally has a wider release 5 stars
11/02/03 Adam Cory Beautiful film! 5 stars
7/18/03 Chuckfoo Gorgeous Film, how old is this filmmaker?! 5 stars
4/18/03 Pete Not as slow as reviewer described. Amazing film. 5 stars
3/12/03 Nancy Coll Exceptional performances. Thought provoking, definitely not mindless entertainment. 4 stars
2/09/03 sebastian A beautiful film that gently reminds that life is more than the sum of its parts 5 stars
2/07/03 alexanna it was great. more than great. 5 stars
2/02/03 Kris Morrison Pretty good, but not the best I saw at Sundance 4 stars
1/27/03 monkeygal beautiful, i cried my eyes out 5 stars
1/25/03 Cho Cho Fucking Awesome 5 stars
1/25/03 Jean Laverston Tremendous film. 5 stars
1/25/03 mikey c beautiful and disturbing 5 stars
1/24/03 steve b staggeringly phenomenal 5 stars
1/22/03 ronald cory unbelievable 5 stars
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  02-Apr-2004 (R)
  DVD: 07-Sep-2004



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