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THE UNITED STATES OF LELAND

This film probably wouldnít exist if Kevin Spacey hadnít embraced the script, agreed to produce and act, and endorsed screenwriter Matthew Ryan Hoge as a first-time director. After all, the story of a well-meaning teacher in a juvenile detention prison who canít fathom the random violence of his students mirrors Hogeís work experiences when he left the safety net of UCLA film school. The movie brings together Don Cheadle as Pearl Madison, the teacher, and Ryan Gosling as Leland Fitzgerald, a sensitive middle-class kid whoís landed in prison after, seemingly without reason, he knifed to death the autistic brother of his former girlfriend. There are some sterling performances: Cheadle, as always, and Donnie Darkoís fabulous girlfriend, Jena Malone, as Lelandís junkie ex. But Hoge might have better spent his time toning down his self-conscious, overwritten script and allowing a more seasoned filmmaker to direct. As for Spacey, heís pretty much wallpaper in a supporting role as Lelandís asshole-novelist dad. (108 minutes)


Issue Date: April 16 - 22, 2004
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