21 May 2007

The United States of Leland

I think there are two ways you can see the world. You either see the sadness that's behind everything or you choose to keep it all out.

I unwittingly followed the reading of The Taste of a Man with watching The United States of Leland. What a great combination for inducing mild depression… Like Man, Matthew Ryan Hoge’s Leland illustrates the everyday grim lives of five reasonably well off teenagers and their normally abnormal families. Absent fathers, controlling mothers, alcoholism, drug addiction, and various forms of escapism and passive aggression ripple beneath every scene. The violent behavior that each character engages in is all so unsettlingly familiar and commonplace – which makes you realize how dysfunctional we’ve become as a society. In some ways Leland’s form of destruction is the most humane and empathetic, while the exploitation (under the guise of therapeutic counseling) by Pearl, rivals the black hole of apathy exhibited by Leland’s father for most loathsome character. Ryan Gosling is haunting in the role of Leland – his slow and dreamy cadence initially comes across as disengaged but later reveals a depth of thought and emotion that is heartbreaking.

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