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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
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by Elaine Perrone

"Skip the trip to the bleak land of Leland."
1 stars

Absent the crisp writing, complex characters, and black humor that characterize American Beauty and Donnie Darko, The United States of Leland is an egregious rip off of both.

Based upon the premise of the murder of a young autistic boy by a teenager, the eponymous Leland P. Fitzgerald (Ryan Gosling), who claims he acted out of sadness about the world around him, and who later realizes his "mistake" and turns himself in, "Leland" is a smug, self-important exercise in manipulation that employs a cadre of one-dimensional cardboard stereotypes to deliver its Big Message: You Can't Change the Past.

Completely squandered here are the considerable talents of veterans Don Cheadle, Lena Olin, Martin Donovan, and Ann Magnuson, as are those of young actors Gosling, Jena Malone, Chris Klein, and Michelle Williams.

The only person given a realistic, multi-faceted character to work with is Kevin Spacey, who plays Leland's father, Albert Fitzgerald, an emotionally bankrupt novelist whose character deficiencies are only slightly mitigated by his own awareness of them. The rest are little more than paper-thin caricatures of the murdered child's grieving parents (Magnuson and Donovan), their heroin-addicted daughter (Malone, yeah right), and Leland's emotionally fragile mother (Olin). Williams and Klein are relegated to peripheral roles as the slain boy's other sister and her steady-as-a-rock boyfriend who lives with their family, neither being given much to do until the final scenes when Klein is called upon to deliver Hoge's Important Ending.

Equally poorly-drawn is the character of Pearl Madison (Cheadle), Leland's hard-drinking, morally ambiguous prison teacher with a hidden agenda, who becomes Leland's sounding board for such platitudes as "You can't make things unhappen," "Just because what I did was wrong, doesn't make what you did right," and "It's funny how you only say 'I'm only human' after you do something bad. Nobody ever says 'I'm only human' after they rescue a kid from a burning building."

Where "Leland" crosses the line from simply annoying to reprehensible, though, is in its blatant attempt to elicit sympathy for Leland and none at all for the slain child, Ryan Pollard (Michael Welch). Perhaps the most shocking line of all is spoken by Ryan's mother (Magnuson), who in her grief expresses bewilderment at Leland's having murdered her son, who she describes as having "nothing there." Anyone who has the least knowledge at all about having an emotional attachment to a developmentally disabled child -- let alone that of a loving parent -- would know how repulsive and unrealistic that line really is.

That Hoge doesn't understand the wealth of attributes Ryan's mother would have found in her child just serves to point up his own ineptitude in writing this script and shines the spotlight on exactly what's wrong with The United States of Leland: There's nothing there, there.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=6880&reviewer=376
originally posted: 07/15/04 23:23:38
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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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