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Worth A Look: 30.65%
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5 reviews, 32 user ratings

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United States of Leland, The
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by Preston Jones

"Teen American Beauty...just look closer."
2 stars

There’s something to be said for order and logic – they can ground the most random of events in something approximating reality. Of course, order and logic don’t always travel in the same circles.

Nowhere is this theory more evident than in writer/director Matthew Ryan Hoge’s The United States of Leland , a drama aping Ordinary People mashed up with American Beauty via “Dawson’s Creek” and is considerably less than the sum of those parts. Hoge’s central conceit – that a disaffected teen can simply murder an autistic child for reasons that aren’t entirely clear – renders his film insurmountable from the get-go.
Spending a hour and 45 minutes with characters so stifled by the literary pretensions of Hoge’s ennui and dysfunction-suffused screenplay that they can barely articulate their feelings, let alone emote about life-shattering events really, really grates; in particular, Ryan Gosling’s performance as the titular Leland P. Fitzgerald makes one truly glad for the narrative twist of the film’s final moments.
Plucked from hundreds of entries to Kevin Spacey’s Trigger Street Productions Web site, Hoge’s film was one of the many toasts of Sundance this year – and given the more corporate, less cineaste-minded attitude of Sundance, it makes perfect sense. United States of Leland is the most pedestrian type of independent film – one packed with stock clichés, that desperately wants to be About Something, but tragically, is full of characters that appear to say Something but in reality are saying Nothing.
Freshman misfires aside, not all of Hoge’s work is tin-eared; when he gets out of his characters’ ways and lets them unfold in a naturalistic manner, the rewards are minor but satisfying. Gosling and Jena Malone share a tender relationship moment; Don Cheadle and Spacey, who, in addition to producing the film, has a minor role as Leland’s father, share two distinctly brilliant exchanges that almost redeem the pop psychology/Lit 101 mush that falls around them.

The United States of Leland would’ve benefited from extended rewrites; the non-linear approach to the narrative confuses things further, rather than applying the intended stylistic gloss. Hoge has the germ of an intriguing idea, but unfortunately, the end result doesn’t fully coalesce. Rent if you must.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=6880&reviewer=304
originally posted: 06/27/04 20:44:06
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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, it´s 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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