Proof Review: The United States of Leland (2003)

Release Date
January 18, 2003
Director
Matthew Ryan Hoge
Screenplay
Matthew Ryan Hoge
Distributed By
Paramount Classics
Crime, Drama, Indie
Rated R for language and some drug content
108 minutes

The United States Of Leland
06three-stars

Mix a stacked cast of big names with Kevin Spacey as the producer and you get a film called The United States of Leland. Having been released since 2003, a friend of mine encouraged me to watch the film. Having finally gotten time to view it, I was pleasantly surprised. Ryan Gosling acts as the main character, Leland, a socially awkward teen, disconnected from everyone around him. The first time we meet him, he has committed a murder on a mentally handicapped young boy. The film follows him as he is sent to a correctional facility. The film also focuses on all those effected by the murder including the families of both parties of the murder and the teacher (Don Cheadle) working with Leland in the juvenile hall. Leland succeeds in making you care about the characters but eventually gives way to a slow pace and no real climax.

Each big name in the film does their part, each having their own side story. Kevin Spacey’s and Don Cheadle’s interconnected side story drew most of my interest. Spacey’s character, as Leland’s absent and cold father, hanging out in a hotel bar for the extent of the film was most enjoyable. The film could have definitely used a tint of suspense, but remains a hard drama; more of a documentation of lives effected by disaster rather than a “whodunit” or eerie psychological drama where you are not quite sure who is at fault. By the time you realize there is no real twist or deep explanation for anything in the film, the end credits roll and you are left to wonder if you missed anything. Digging deeper into the film, I realized there was nothing to miss. Leland is a straightforward drama, putting all the cards on the table and allowing you to see the aftermath of inexplicable death in its truest form.

 

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