I hope you’re ready to face the serious, serious issues.
Michael Cuesta
Paul Dano, Brian Cox, Billy Kay, Bruce Altman
The Setup: 
It’s the hard-knock life for suburban youths on Long Island. Oh, and there’s a pedophile.

I recall this film when it was out. I has heard that it had a lot of homoerotic content and that one of its main characters was a pedophile, and I knew that it was all about lost young boys on Long Island anyway. So when my friend came over and the shitty Blockbuster in my new neighborhood didn’t have our first choice, The Blue Lagoon, and didn’t have our second choice, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, we walked around and both agreed on this.

Now, I might have to point out something that viewers who have not been to film school have probably not picked up. Look at the letters in the film’s name. Have you noticed… that they spell out the word “lie?” Wrap your heads around THAT, mutherfuckers!

The movie begins with a narration about the L.I.E. [Long Island Expressway]: “You have the lanes going East, and the lanes going West. You also have the lanes going straight to hell.” That line, coupled with the pun of the film’s name, should provide you with a sense of the general level this film is operating at. It’s actually better than that as a whole, it’s just that it is trying desperately to be very hard-hitting and in your face. And the more it tries the less it makes of itself.

Anyway, so soon we’re introduced to our kid protagonists. This is done in a scene where one of the peripheral kids claims to be having sex with his sister. Across the table from him are two kids with hair that looks like something Wonder Woman might sport. One of them is Gary, who will turn out to be our main thug, and across from him is Howie, who is our main character. Howie comes from a broken home where his once-hot-now-washed-up father preens in front of the mirror and fucks his girlfriend in front of a window where the kids and presumably the neighborhood can see. Howie has the whole Hamlet deal about his father shacking up with this woman. So soon Howie and Gary have this extremely homoerotic relationship going on in which they gaze at each other and tease each other and hang around frequently shirtless. At one point Gary sits astride Howie chest and lets a huge strand of spit hang down, almost into Howie’s mouth, before he sucks it back up. I tend not to be attracted to anyone under the age of 35, but for those who are into adolescent boys, and seek entirely legal ways to oogle them in the privacy of your own home, just go ahead and buy a copy of this disc, as you will find ample opportunities to engage yourself in manual pleasuring.

Anyway, it seems that gary is a sort of hustler for the creepy Big John, who has some sort of brothel / youth outreach program going for the young boys in the neighborhood. The license plate of his car reads “BJ.” It seems that Gary is recruiting Howie to be part of this little harem, and soon Howie finds that he is relying on Big John for support.

I will tell you now that nothing happens between the two of them, except a lot of good friendship and support [and moral growth, but of course], although the film teases us several times with several creepy and uncomfortable scenes. On the one hand, I guess it’s unusual to have to subject matter happening at all, on the other, I thought it was a little disingenuous that Big John would simply restrain himself and offer only the hand of friendship to little Howie, as he obviously sought Howie’s company for one reason only, and there are several scenes of him manipulating Howie into a position where he would be obliged to give in to Big John, then it just never happens. Look at that as you may.

In the background, bad things are happening for Howie’s father. An example of how this film sails over the top again and again would come when just after one of the several catastrophes befalls Howie, and he is sitting abject on the curb of his subdivision, two kids come by with squirtguns and drench him. Then a sprinkler right next to him comes on and shoots him. I guess the film did show a little restraint, as this was not followed by a bird shitting on him and a piano falling on him, but to me, this kind of OTT exaggeration hurt the seriousness with which one can take this movie.

Anyway, so tragedy piles upon tragedy, we come to understand he harsh realities of human nature, and the thin veneer of what we call civilized society is daringly stripped back to reveal the rot festering within. It’s too bad the writer/director felt he had to go so far with these things to get attention, because I think the movie would have been a great deal stronger if he were able to restrain himself. Nevertheless, this is still a very worthy watch, as the extensive coverage of youthful homoerotic impulses are explored in a way I haven’t seen much of anywhere else, and the story, while jam-packed with psychological angst, is also interesting and does have a ring of truth. Just highly polished and enhanced truth.

Should you watch it: 

It’s worth your time. I just think it could have been so much stronger.