L.I.E. Review

Sep 08, 2001 | 9:17am EDT

Howie Blitzer is a 15-year-old boy who must suddenly do a lot of growing up. His mother was killed in a car crash on the Long Island Expressway and his father is a workaholic who is never around--and when he is he's living it up with his new girlfriend. Howie finds acceptance with his delinquent friends especially smooth-talking Gary. They rob houses for kicks and get away with it until they hit Big John's house and steal his prized antique pistols. It turns out that Big John is not only a respected pillar of the community he is also engaged in a sex-for-pay relationship with Gary. Rather than scare him off his friend's secret lifestyle intrigues Howie more than ever. When the FBI arrests Howie's father for a white-collar construction crime he is left to fend for himself and falls prey to Big John pedophilic desires. Howie who soon realizes he is falling in love with Gary is not so much a victim in Big John's scheme but a willing participant eager to explore his newfound sexual desires.

Brian Cox (Kiss the Girls For Love of the Game) who plays the town sicko Big John delivers an untouchable performance. His character is so multi-faceted that it's hard to decide if you like him or hate him even though there should be absolutely nothing redeeming about his character. He is twisted and yet prefers to play the role of a father figure to a young boy who clearly needs parenting. And Cox does it so convincingly. Paul Franklin Dano (The Newcomers) plays Howie with a subtle energy that's never too cute or too clever. He comes across as an average boy who has to deal with less-than-average problems. Billy Kaye (The Newcomers Halloween: The Homecoming) plays Gary the troubled teen hustler. Kaye also manages to play a fairly complicated derelict role with enough compassion that you don't want him to get caught robbing houses or turning tricks. Bruce Altman (Copland Girl Interrupted) plays Marty Blitzer Howie's macho father and gives a performance that's a little too macho and lacks in sincerity. Tony Donnelly and Walter Masterson give convincing performances as friends of Howie and Gary.

L.I.E. director Michael Cuesta creates a sinfully charming film where nothing is obviously wrong or right. In Howie and Gary he gives the audience extremely complicated and endearing characters. While both are victims of neglect Howie's is a more benign one--he suffers from being perpetually ignored. Left without guidance or parental supervision he becomes a bottomless pit of need that no mortal human could possibly fill except maybe Big John. Even though we should despise him for what he his Big John's reluctance to take advantage of Howie's trust and vulnerability almost make you believe he might not be such a bad guy after all. Gary's character is much more mysterious but his tenderness towards Howie is both enticing and sweet. Except for a short glimpse inside his bedroom we never really find out what makes Gary tick leaving us wanting more insight into his life and future.

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