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77 out of 88 people found the following review useful:

Tender and Thoughtful

Author: Howard Schumann from Vancouver, B.C.
17 June 2002

On the Long Island Expressway, Howie says, "You got your lanes going east, you got your lanes going west, and you got your lanes going straight to hell". Perched on a barrier above the Long Island Expressway ready to jump, 15 year old Howie Blitzer (Paul Franklin Dano) tells us that the L.I.E. has claimed many lives including folk singer Harry Chapin, film director Alan J. Pakula, and Howie's mother in a recent car crash. Now scared and alone, emotionally distant from his sleazy, corrupt father, and having fallen in with a gang of thieves and male prostitutes, Howie is poised to become the next victim of the Expressway.

L.I.E. is the coming of age story of a boy who must quickly develop resiliency to cope with the loss of the things closest to him; his mother to the L.I.E., his father to the criminal justice system, and his best friend Gary to the lure of California. More real than American Beauty, more honest than Ghost World, less sleazy than Kids or Happiness, L.I.E. is a tender and thoughtful, often funny, examination of the lives of suburban teens who are without guidance or adult role models and who must develop inner strength simply in order to survive.

Like taking drugs to numb the pain of their boredom and loneliness, Howie, his friend Gary, and a few others have been robbing the expensive houses of their Long Island neighbors just for the excitement of seeing how much they can get away with. One of their escapades takes them to the house of Big John Harrigan (brilliantly performed by Scottish actor Brian Cox), a macho ex-marine well known in the neighborhood as a chickenhawk (for those uninitiated, an individual with a predilection for sex with young men). This encounter is a turning point for young Howie.

Howie and Big John develop a relationship which, while the possibility of man-boy sex is clearly implied, is not threatening or exploitative, but provides Howie with the substitute father-figure he so desperately needs. In portraying Big John, first time director, Michael Cuesta resists moralizing and courageously defies stereotyping. (NOTE: in reality, the sexual predator is more likely to be an inconspicuous business or professional man who uses sex in a furtive manner to satisfy some unfilled need, not the flamboyant, in-your-face sleaze ball that Big John represents).

Paul Franklin Dano as Howie completely captures the confusion and neediness of a lonely teen trying to discover who he is, and he is very reminiscent of a young River Phoenix. Howie comes alive as an immature, lonely, and sexually confused teen, yet a sensitive and intelligent individual who writes poetry to give voice to his loneliness. Howie startles Big John with his knowledge of Chagall and quotes this Walt Whitman strain from Leaves of Grass to him while riding in his car:

"Never more the cries of unsatisfied love be absent from me, Never again leave me to be the peaceful child I was before what there, in the night, By the sea, under the yellow and sagging moon, The messenger there arous'd-the fire, the sweet hell within, The unknown want, the destiny of me."

It is uncertain until the end whether Howie will succumb to the forces closing in on him or develop the inner strength to cope with his loss.

This movie has caused some consternation in some quarters because it shows a sexual predator as a complex human being with feelings. Cuesta does not advocate man-boy relationships but does show that these relationships can often be based on mutual need, something some may overlook when screaming "sexual abuse". Cuesta forces us to look at the multi-leveled components of the relationship, both the predator and the protector, the manipulator and the manipulated. The filmmaker presents the older man as he is, an exploiter with layers of self-hatred and shame, but also as a human being, capable of warmth and love. At the end, if nothing else, I sensed that Howie through his pit stop relationship with Big John was older, wiser, and much more capable of dealing with his problems.

Despite some poorly drawn characters (his father in particular is a caricature) and an oversimplified ending that would have been better left on the cutting room floor, I truly loved this film and would recommend it highly.

Stupidly rated NC-17, L.I.E. is a film that should be seen by both teenagers and their parents.

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69 out of 77 people found the following review useful:

Sexual Honesty

Author: Race Dowling (racedowling) from Brandywine, MD
22 February 2006

As a sexuality educator I was impressed by the straightforward, nonjudgmental nature of a rather difficult topic. I vacillated between giving this film an 8 or a 9 and decided on 9 because we need more films like this. This topic requires understanding, not acceptance mind you, but real honest understanding. The very fact that it was given an nc-17 rating is part of the problem with our society. There was about as much sex as I've seen in R or even PG-13 movies, the rating was obviously ONLY because of the uncomfortable subject matter. How can society solve a problem that it clearly does not even want to talk about, let alone understand?

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55 out of 66 people found the following review useful:

Brilliant and daring

Author: zetes from Saint Paul, MN
22 June 2002

It's shocking that this film was ever made. You don't often get characters this well written in American independent cinema, and you certainly don't get characters who are pedophiles portrayed with this much thought behind them. Todd Solondz's Happiness can only be partially counted, as that pedophilic character was played half as comedy (very daring in its way, as well). Brian Cox gives the performance of a lifetime with this character - you won't entirely understand how perfect he is or how perfectly written he is until you see it. Any expectation you can come up with will be quashed when you see the film.

But, aside from that, this film is about young Howie, also played brilliantly by newcomer Paul Franklin Dano. This is one of the best films about the status of high school students today. No, not all kids are like this, but these characters represent an important segment in the school population. This could have easily been one of those my-dad-is-too-busy-to-pay-attention-to-me-so-I'm-going-to-act-out movies, and, indeed, it is in a way, but the characters and situations are so well written - and the film's technique is amazing, as well - that they're entirely believable.

I praise the hell out of Michael Cuesta for making this film. He's an absolute daredevil. Almost every piece of the film is like a highwire act, and he only stumbles at the very end. It's just too abrupt and simplistic, as if some producer thought that these characters shouldn't be able to live their lives. I hope Cuesta will make more films in the future. He's one of the best to pop up in the last few years.

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44 out of 49 people found the following review useful:

"Mouth dropping"

Author: drtturner ( from philly
23 December 2001

I think that's the adjectivian phrase that i'm looking for to describe my reaction to this film. From the opening film scene to the abrupt end my eyes were like saucers as my head often shook side to side as if to say no. As a shrink who deals with children, this is an excellent examination of how many times there are no easy solutions and good kids can easily find themselves in bad straits. This is the best movie that I have seen in the past 3 years, which is quite a compliment since I attend movies regularly. I've warned fellow movie buffs of the strong content while suggesting that they look beyond that to examine what they think about the films commentary on teens developing their identities as they seek to enter into adulthood.

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28 out of 30 people found the following review useful:

Realistic, pulls no punches.

Author: NJ_jimcat from Darkest New Jersey
19 July 2002

This story rings true because it's something that happens in the real world all the time, whether people want to admit it or not. The film captures events and emotions that are complex, challenging, and confusing.

Howie, a young, intelligent, good-looking boy attracts attention from the same sex and isn't sure how he feels about it. He meets "Big John", and finds himself fascinated and impressed by the man's life, flattered and a bit scared at the attention he shows, and also somewhat repulsed by the man's attraction for young boys.

John, for his part, begins the relationship from a position he's quite familiar with: using his power as a worldly and canny adult to manipulate someone else. He feels physically attracted to Howie, but as they spend more time together, he sees the depth of the boy's character and a sensitivity similar to his own. Howie brings out the good side in John (and some people may be shocked that the film shows how a pedophile can have a "good side", but this is reality and it is well depicted).

Howie's feelings are excellently illustrated as they run a wide spectrum: confused, repulsed, lonely, defiant, confident, aroused, at times even suicidal. I empathized with and admired the character, and found myself rooting strongly for him to rise above the tragic and frustrating circumstances in which he found himself. In the end I felt a sense of triumph as we saw that, despite his unfortunate situation and his own flaws and weaknesses, he does possess the strength and character to face the world and become his own person.

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20 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

Spoke to me in many ways

Author: tonymurphylee from USA
15 July 2008

Howie Blitzer is having some serious trouble dealing with the death of his mother. His father is never around and is constantly with other women and his only friend is Gary, another troubled kid who Howie is sexually attracted to and who leads him and a couple other misfits to houses to steal from. Eventually, Howie and Gary rob the house of a pederast named Big John(Brian Cox). Big John finds Howie and at first sees him as another teenager that he can fool around with. However, upon meeting Howie, he realizes that Howie doesn't needs a father figure more than he needs a sexual partner.

There is one single flaw with the film. That is the ending. The film ends in heartless violence. It would have been better to end ambiguously. However, even that single flaw doesn't make me love the film any less. This is one of those films that is so honest, so pitch-perfect in the people it is depicting, so fearless in what it's willing to show, that, to me, it is almost required viewing.

This film really spoke to me. I can really relate to it in a lot of ways because I had a terrible time back when I was fifteen since I had been bullied around and didn't really have anyone to talk to. I had experienced the loss of people I loved as well, and I dealt with those bad feelings for a while. I can really relate to the Howie character. I think we all, at one time or another, felt a little like Howie Blitzer. He's a great character. Despite his problems, he still is a good writer and he still appreciates art and the things that matter to him.

The performances are remarkably natural and extraordinary, the cinematography is top-notch, the script is both hilarious and heartbreaking, and the whole film has such a strong sense of intensity and ferocity that it's really difficult to stop watching it once you start. It does everything a film is supposed to do. It's extremely entertaining, challenging, and bizarre. It's one of the best films of the 21st century.

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22 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

A true to life tale of a young suburban male teenager.

Author: steven john from United States
1 March 2006

I've practically lived this film so I know what it portray's isn't exploitive or audacious in the negative sense. It's a simple story of a kid growing up in the suburbs. The meaninglessness and frustration of this way of life I felt was painted nicely by the cinematographer and the director. The omnipotent lukewarm attempts by the high school and social structure were represented in a fair manner. It's a story of a teenager dealing with many things straight on. This movie is really an interesting look into modern western life as seen by a young kid. The movie draw's you in like all good film-making should. The acting is great. The story will hold your attention and be engaging to you regardless of your childhood. The only stumbling blocks will be your own pretenses or cynicism. It's not a complex story on the surface but everything that isn't spelled out is where the weight of the film resides.

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22 out of 32 people found the following review useful:

Thought-provoking, unsettling and at times downright disturbing ...

Author: LITP (lostintwinpeaks)
9 March 2003

Thought-provoking, unsettling and at times downright disturbing, this is nevertheless a brilliant movie. An excellent script is given justice by some tight direction and marvellous performances, particularly by Brian Cox (Manhunter, The Ring) in a career-best performance.

It may not be sunny and happy, but it's a powerful piece of film-making. I could go on and on about it - but that's what message boards are for.


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17 out of 25 people found the following review useful:

Fine Job

Author: K.G.Wanamaker from Las Vegas, Nevada
28 October 2001

L.I.E. is the name of the movie and short for Long Island Expressway. At the beginning of the movie fifteen year-old Howie stands on top a bridge over that expressway . A fine opening sequence in which we are not sure he will jump nor how the movie will break away from the tense opening. He returns to the bridge several times during the movie. The fifteen year-old has lost mother to the L.I.E. and has no substantive relationship with his father. He becomes friends with another boy who sells his body to men at a local rest stop. Together they rob houses and are caught in the act attempting to rob the home of a pederast called Big John. Howie narrowly escapes sans the left rear pocket of his jeans which Big John has torn from him in the chase. Later the pederast and Howie become friends. I don't want to give away too much of the plot but I found this movie a sensitive portrayal of a difficult subject to present objectively(especially in these times of the new conservatism): namely man-boy love.

The film has a very erotic quality to it with some nice shots of the teen in underwear. The keen edge of the drama is mollified by fine sequences of comic relief involving the friends of the main character. Ironically the only explicit sex scene was a heterosexual one between Howie's father and his girlfriend. The sound track is very good I thought. I liked the bit where they played 'Hurdy-Gurdy Man' as Big John is cruising the junior high school. And they have a touching Handel aria near the end. I think the relationship between the boy and the older man was well done. The actor who played Big John was exceptional. Much light is thrown on his character in scenes having nothing to do with boys: his birthday party, his drive home near the end. The only part I did not care for was the ending. It did not seem to fit at all. Roger Ebert felt the same way indicating that it seemed like an ending spliced on from another movie. I agree. I give two thumbs up to this movie: one for the way they portrayed the subject matter and another for the fine acting.

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11 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

A Film About Consequences

Author: hobbitonroad from central coast california
23 June 2002

This is a great little film about consequences. Howie is a typically confused but bright middle class kid with a one dimensional father and lug-nuts for friends. This film explores the soft underbelly of middle class Long Island, as well as the consequences that are borne as a result. Howie's explorations for attention lead him dangerously close to a pedophile who is more than willing to play "dad" to the affection starved teen. The low-budget aspects of this movie are not distracting, and though the subject matter is raw, the scenes are handled with taste. The film is kept honest through some thoughtful provocation, and the audience is kept honest as well. This film should be seen by parents of teens, and especially seen by anyone who is a father.

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