Burping up kindergarten koans and Gumpian gibberish like a precocious demon-tot who imagines himself to be the Dalai Lama, this gruesome ensemble abortion deploys the murder of a retarded boy as a golden opportunity for a pseudo-philosophical fart contest. The usually impressive Ryan Gosling grimaces, shuffles, and over-enunciates as Leland, a straight-A high schooler who inexplicably stabs to death the severely impaired brother of his ex-girlfriend (Jena Malone). Once in stir, the apparently magnetic Leland only has to deface his American-history textbook to attract the attentions of a sympathetic prison teacher (Don Cheadle), who becomes his wide-eyed supplicant: ‘I want a chance to know what the United States of Leland is all about.’It’s all about effecting a morbid inversion of the ‘American Beauty’ template: instead of locating ineffable aesthetic joy in a windborne plastic bag or Kevin Spacey’s bloodied corpse, ‘Leland’ glimpses cosmic anguish in the autistic noodlings of a mentally handicapped kid, and beatifies the knife-wielding teen who, as he insists, feels everyone’s sadness more than anyone else and had to do something about it. (Co-producer Spacey turns up as Leland’s bastard novelist dad, gets all the good lines and proves once again that he should only play erudite jerks.) Once Leland launched a rambling lecture on the epistemology of good and evil (‘There is goodness in people… Maybe we’re really scared of the good stuff… Maybe we need the bad stuff to remind us of the good stuff’), I began to feel the sadness of the universe opening a fissure in my skull, but I’m happy to report that I didn’t kill anybody!
|Release date:||Friday July 1 2005|
Cast and crew
|Director:||Matthew Ryan Hoge|
|Screenwriter:||Matthew Ryan Hoge|