Big Fat Independent Movies
Sending Off SXSW Film 04
The United States of LelandD: Matthew Ryan Hoge; with Don Cheadle, Ryan Gosling, Jena Malone, Kevin Spacey, Chris Klein, Michelle Williams
Narrative Feature Special Screenings, Regional Premiere
The United States of Leland is about an innocuous teenager, Leland (Gosling), who inexplicably murders the autistic brother of his ex-girlfriend. In the aftermath, as the former couple's families grapple with their shock, Leland awaits trial in a juvenile detention center. There, his teacher, aspiring writer Pearl (Cheadle), sees in Leland the ideal bestseller. Through interviews, he hopes to uncover Leland's hidden motivations and write about this murderer who looks like he "couldn't hurt a fly." Though Leland narrates the film, the audience gets no inside scoop into this mystery. We must instead slog along with Pearl through the events leading up to the murder, examining clues too often retracted as red herrings. The breakup as motivation? Too simple. The cruelty of Leland's father? Not exactly. Eventually, Leland's musings do start to reveal an appreciably universal inner monster, reflected in all the people who surround him, the kind that sees a couple kissing and thinks of "how everybody's kind of dying inside." Yet, in the end, when we should finally understand the inexplicable crime, the already unlikely murderer just seems all the more unlikely.