L.I.E.

First-time feature director Michael Cuesta's dark suburban fable is a tough proposition. Set in the outer reaches of Long Island, it's the story of a 15-year-old boy who, as his family disappears from around him, finds a friend and substitute father in a total stranger. The rub is that the stranger happens to be a 55-year-old pedophile. The title is short...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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First-time feature director Michael Cuesta's dark suburban fable is a tough proposition. Set in the outer reaches of Long Island, it's the story of a 15-year-old boy who, as his family disappears from around him, finds a friend and substitute father in a total stranger. The rub is that the stranger happens to be a 55-year-old pedophile. The title is short for the Long Island Expressway, a multi-lane strip of fast-moving traffic that runs the length of the Island and each year claims the lives of a number of unlucky travelers. One of those lives belonged to Sheila Blitzer; now her son Howie (Paul Franklin Dano), a bright but bored teenager of a poetic bent, lives alone with his father, Marty (Bruce Altman), in their sterile, modern home. Marty, a successful building contractor, is facing possible indictment for installing faulty wiring in a public building that later burned to the ground; preoccupied with his own troubles, Marty leaves his son to his own devices. Howie has a serious, unacknowledged crush on his best friend, Gary (Billy Kay), and together they've taken to breaking into houses in upscale neighborhoods. But Gary is also into stuff that even Howie doesn't know about: He's been earning extra cash as a hustler, prostituting himself at the notorious cruising grounds scattered along the L.I.E. One night Gary suggests sneaking into the home of "Big John" Harrigan (Brian Cox), who has a pair of valuable pistols stored in the basement. They grab the guns and make a narrow escape, but Big John — a burly ex-Marine with a taste for underage boys — knows exactly who the culprit is, because he's one of Gary's regular johns. Big John confronts Gary, Gary fingers Howie, and when Howie can produce only one of the stolen pistols, Big John suggests they come to a different sort of payback arrangement. The subject matter is certainly controversial — it's not every day that we see a sympathetic portrayal of a pedophile — but Cuesta avoids the taint of salaciousness, thanks in large part to a brilliant performance from Cox. Cox's sensitively characterized Big John is a glad-handing sexual predator whose bonhomie is undercut by barely concealed self-loathing. That the film, like Todd Solondz's HAPPINESS, manages to find room in its heart for even the most indecent obsessions is less a sign of its own perversion than of its enormous capacity for empathy.

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  • Released: 2001
  • Rating: NC-17
  • Review: First-time feature director Michael Cuesta's dark suburban fable is a tough proposition. Set in the outer reaches of Long Island, it's the story of a 15-year-old boy who, as his family disappears from around him, finds a friend and substitute father in a t… (more)

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