Lyle Jensen is subject to sudden and violent outbursts, and he is committed to the juvenile wing of the Northwood Mental Institution. Several other youths are there with a variety of ... See full summary »
Fifteen-year-old Howie loses just about everything and everyone in the space of a single week, but ends up finding himself in the process. His mother has just died. His father, a building contractor, can barely keep tabs on his young girlfriend, let alone his own son. Thusly, the teen must navigate his adolescence virtually unsupervised. Floating towards an ill-behaved existence, Howie and his crowd begin robbing houses in the middle-class neighborhoods off the Long Island Expressway. Together, he and his best friend Gary break into a place belonging to an old guy named Big John, a local man who is a respected pillar of the community. When Big John fingers Gary for the crime, Howie learns that his pal has been leading a secret, dangerous but also alluring double life. Subsequently, we also discover that Big John has secrets of his own. Written by
Sujit R. Varma
When Howie visits his Dad in jail, he can't even wear his earrings into the visit area. But when his Dad comes out to see him, his Dad is clearly wearing his wedding ring (and that would not be allowed in the jail anyway). See more »
L.I.E. Long Island Expressway. You got the lanes going east, and you got the lanes going west. And you also got the lanes going straight to hell. Lot of people died on it. Harry Chapin, Alan Pakula, the movie director. You probably heard of them. But you never heard of Sylvia Blitzer, my mom. She died on a crash on Exit 52. I really miss her. It's taken a lot of people and I hope it doesn't get me.
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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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