L.I.E.

"Weak"

L.I.E. Review


Best remembered for his understated performance as Dr. Hannibal Lecter in Michael Mann's forensics thriller Manhunter, Scottish character actor Brian Cox brings something special to every movie he works on. Usually playing a bit role in some studio schlock (he dies halfway through The Long Kiss Goodnight), he's only occasionally given something meaty and substantial to do. If you want to see some brilliant acting, check out his work as a dogged police inspector opposite Frances McDormand in Ken Loach's Hidden Agenda.

Cox plays the role of Big John Harrigan in the disturbing new indie flick L.I.E., which Lot 47 picked up at Sundance when other distributors were scared to budge. Big John feels the love that dares not speak its name, but he expresses it through seeking out adolescents and bringing them back to his pad. What bothered some audience members was the presentation of Big John in an oddly empathetic light. He's an even-tempered, funny, robust old man who actually listens to the kids' problems (as opposed to their parents and friends, both caught up in the high-wire act of their own confused lives.) He'll have sex-for-pay with them only after an elaborate courtship, charming them with temptations from the grown-up world.

L.I.E. stands for Long Island Expressway, which slices through the strip malls and middle-class homes of suburbia. Filmmaker Michael Cuesta uses it as a (pretty transparent) metaphor of dangerous escape for his 15-year old protagonist, Howie (Paul Franklin Dano). In his opening voice-over, Howie reveals a morbid preoccupation with death on the road, citing the L.I.E. highway deaths of filmmaker Alan J. Pakula, songwriter Harry Chapin, and his own mother on Exit 52. He's both fascinated and disturbed by the L.I.E., and those feelings are projected onto Big John (who follows Howie around in his bright red car, but never makes a move to force the boy to do something he doesn't want to do. This makes him much more complex than the usual child molesters seen in movies -- he's a beast, but ashamed of it.)

L.I.E. would have worked best as a half-hour short film about Howie's ill-advised foray into Big John's haven. There is unnecessary padding with Howie's miserable dad (Bruce Altman) in the hot seat for a white-collar crime, degenerate youngsters who get their kicks from robbing middle-class houses, and some homoerotic shenanigans with wise-ass Gary Terrio (Billy Kay), a handsome Artful Dodger. Rather than add to the themes of suburban ennui (not that we needed another movie on that subject), these awkward subplots pad out the running time to adequate feature length.

Concurrently, the relationship between Howie and Big John is evenly paced and exceptionally well acted. Cox, sporting a baseball cap and a faded marine tattoo, is all bluff and bluster. Dano is quiet and at first glance seems so withdrawn as to be transparent. We're so used to child actors whose dramatic choices are broad and obvious (calling Haley Joel!), it's surprising to see one who actually listens throughout any given scene. The restraint is admirable.

But L.I.E.'s screenplay doesn't always give them the best material. When Howie reads Big John a Walt Whitman poem, the moment feels a bit too precious. Director Michael Cuesta lingers on an ecstatic reaction shot of Big John, who may as well be hearing Glenn Gould performing Bach's Goldberg Variations. It's too much. There are also some obvious dramatic contrivances involving Big John's other boy toy (Walter Masterson), jealous over the newbie. This plot thread predictably leads to violence.

Not content to be a haunting, observational portrait of teen alienation in a royally screwed up world (like Terry Zwigoff's superb Ghost World), Cuesta lacks the confidence in his own work to end on an ambivalent note. It's typical of unimaginative cinema to wrap things up with a bullet, sparing the writers from actually having to come up with a complex, philosophical note. In this regard, L.I.E. (and countless other indie films) shares something in common with blockbuster action films: problems are solved when the obstacle is removed. How often does real life work this way? To extend the question: If a movie is striving for realism, do dramatic contrivances destroy the illusion?

L.I.E.r.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 97 mins

In Theaters: Friday 29th November 2002

Box Office Worldwide: $1.7M

Budget: $700 thousand

Distributed by: Lot 47 Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Fresh: 68 Rotten: 14

IMDB: 7.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Howie Blitzer, as Marty Blitzer, as Big John Harrigan, as Gary, as Kevin Cole, Tony Michael Donnelly as Brian, as Scott, as Elliot, Chance Kelly as Prison Guard

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Bad Santa 2 Movie Review

Bad Santa 2 Movie Review

The 2003 comedy Bad Santa is a holiday classic that skilfully mixes gross-out humour with...

Allied Movie Review

Allied Movie Review

There's a terrific script at the heart of this World War II thriller, with a...

A United Kingdom Movie Review

A United Kingdom Movie Review

Based on a powerful true story from the late 1940s, this drama is packed with...

Indignation Movie Review

Indignation Movie Review

Philip Roth's layered novels are a challenge for filmmakers (see also 2003's The Human Stain...

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review

It's been five years since the last Harry Potter movie, and J.K. Rowling has been...

Dog Eat Dog Movie Review

Dog Eat Dog Movie Review

Yet another bonkers thriller starring Nicolas Cage, this trashy crime comedy comes from director Paul...

Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall Movie Review

Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall Movie Review

"Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall" is a DVD...

Advertisement
Arrival Movie Review

Arrival Movie Review

This sci-fi drama has an enjoyably brain-bending plot that leaves the audience almost stunned with...

Elle Movie Review

Elle Movie Review

There's a boldly comical tone to this outrageous thriller that can't help but unnerve audiences...

100 Streets Movie Review

100 Streets Movie Review

A multi-strand drama set in London, this film is very nicely shot and acted, but...

Nocturnal Animals Movie Review

Nocturnal Animals Movie Review

It's been seven years since designer Tom Ford made a splash with his award-winning writing-directing...

The Light Between Oceans Movie Review

The Light Between Oceans Movie Review

With a sweeping, picturesque setting and emotive performances, this dramatic epic will appeal to moviegoers...

The Accountant Movie Review

The Accountant Movie Review

While this slick dramatic thriller plays with some intriguing ideas and themes, it never actually...

Train to Busan Movie Review

Train to Busan Movie Review

Leave it to the Koreans to reinvent the zombie horror movie and put a high-speed...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.