Watching this movie is like having your car break down on a hundred mile stretch of road smack dab between Dullsville and Boring Town. The first 50 minutes is nothing but drudgerous back story that could have been dispensed with through a handful of well written lines of dialog. The middle 30 minutes is a bunch of mediocre pretension with a twist you'll see coming a mile away. The only way I can describe the final 20some minutes of Leo is that this blah little tale comes to a definite end, but these filmmakers keep on going like someone who's having sex and can't achieve orgasm. It's a lot of uncomfortable pounding away at ground that's already been well pounded.
This movie weaves together two thoroughly tedious yarns about life in Mississippi. In something like the present day, a taciturn man named Stephen (Joseph Fiennes) gets out of prison after serving 18 years on a murder conviction. He gets a job working in a hotel/diner and spends the rest of his time writing in his room and taping the pages up on his wall where they are blown about by an inexplicable breeze. In some nondescript part of the 1970s, an unhappy young woman named Mary Bloom (Elizabeth Shue) is living an unfulfilled life as the wife of college professor Ben Bloom (Jake Weber). After going into a whole bunch of Mary's life that absolutely didn't need to be gone into, Mary gives birth to a son named Leo (Davis Sweatt) while miserably carrying on with Ryan (Justin Chambers), a house painter who inexplicably transforms from sensitive man to trailer trash bastard.
These separate threads come together when Leo grows up to become a pen pal of Stephen. Their relationship is more involved than that, but anyone who watches this movie will figure out what it is long before the film actually reveals the truth, so I don't see any need to get into it myself. Back in the present, Stephen has to protect a designated victim (Deborah Kara Unger) from Horace (Dennis Hopper), the almost comically abusive co-owner of the hotel/diner. Back in the 1970s
well, young actor Davis Sweatt essentially stands around watching Elizabeth Shue give a decent but obvious performance as a mother who hates and resents her son. The story then comes to a reasonable and logical conclusion, yet the movie continues on and on and on until reaching an artsy-fartsy final image that must have meant something to these filmmakers but won't mean anything to anyone else.
Leo would have been a boring experience even if it had had an unexpected and interesting twist to it. That this movie's twist is predictable and stale sent my apathy level rocketing past the Moon and on its way to Mars. In fairness, someone with a stronger constitution might have gotten more out of this film than I did. But after the first 50 minutes of this thing passed and I realized I'd just spent that much time watching exposition and the real plot of Leo was only getting started, I'll admit that I emotionally checked out. As I mentioned before, not a thing in that first hunk of Leo couldn't have been more effectively communicated to the audience through a few lines of dialog and a few moments of behavior on screen. To sit there for that long, only to discover I'd been watching a 50 minute long equivalent of the opening crawl of a Star Wars flick was too much for me to tolerate.
So, take this criticism with a grain of salt. I found viewing Leo to be as much fun as a dental exam and as touching as a traffic ticket. Your mileage may vary.
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