Directed by: Matthew Ryan Hoge
Premise: The film explores the effects of a murder committed by the bright but disturbed Leland Fitzgerald (Ryan Gosling).
What Works: The film features great performances by Gosling as Leland, Don Cheadle as a teacher in the juvenile detention center, and Jena Malone as Leland’s junkie girlfriend. The film explores the power we have over our own fate and how we affect our own self control and sense of personal responsibility based on our understanding of our relationships to others. The film addresses these issues without reducing the characters to victims of circumstance or excusing their actions.
What Doesn’t: Kevin Spacey feels underused in what amounts to a cameo role as Leland’s father. Some parts of the story, such as Leland’s relationship with his parents, feel unexplored.
DVD extras: Trailer
Bottom Line: The United States of Leland is a thought provoking film that digs into the element of choice and the nihilism hiding behind the suburban-middle class lifestyle.
Episode: #38 (February 6, 2005)