Projections - Movie Reviews



The distributors of L.I.E. have been saddled with a harsh "NC-17" rating though Michael
Cuerta's provocative independent feature isn't about a pedophile.  But in letting certain popular theaters play the film the MPAA felt Brian Con's Big John is the kind of character that is off limits for children and the sad reality is that something daring, but not gratuitous will be missed by many because of the rating.  L.I.E. simply stands for Long Island Expressway.

This highly-nuanced powerful coming of age tale finds lead character Howie (Paul Franklin Dano), who's 15, much better off economically than personally.  His dad, Marty (Bruce Altman) is devoting his time to a new romantic interest and is involved in illegal activities regarding a government job for his construction company.

Therefore, Howie becomes interested in the life of Gary, filled with narcissistic glamor by Billy Kay, who is adorned with piercing and tattoos and robs houses not different from where he lives on Long Island.

The memorable part of Big John builds a quietly remarkable portrayal as the old man who knows what to do after the kids break into to his home.  Part of the kick of L.I.E. is effectively felt when Gary's secret life of "sex for money" is learned by his naive buddy.

Others around Gary, like Marty, who has a bad gut feeling about him, seem to be onto something, like his guidance counselor acted with psychosexual inference by Marcia DeBonis.  Even Gary's cohorts Kevin (James Costa) and Brian (Tony Donnelly) want him to come clean.

Cuerta's thoughtfully skilled slice of suburban life plays off of Gary's temptation on the friend who is oblivious of reality and a scene of startling intimacy begins to uncover homoerotic urges.

Then as the criminal behavior has grabbed Howie in an unsuspecting way from selfishness, Big John shakes Howie up in a way that makes the script penned by Cuerta and Stephen Ryder turn abruptly without losing a verisimilitude that doesn't let L.I.E. reprehensibly devolve after Big John's sizable demand after Howie gives him back one of the guns that was stolen.  With his father incarcerated by the FBI for embezzlement, Howie gets comfort from the guy one would least expect.  Big John, whose motivations wouldn't indicate the right parental backing to fill Howie's void.

Cuerta gives the viewer a fair look at what a complex world has enveloped Howie and Big John.  They are quite credible as a boy starts to see his real self as his reality disintegrates in front of him.

Walter Masterton's Scotty is the dumb, older teen who shares a place with Big John.  Howie's artistic sensibility catches the eye of the old man who isn't the heartless man that one might think.

This aging pedophile, and ex-Marine with a classic automobile touches a young man who yearns to escape from his existence.  What happens to Big John may run deep for some, but with Cuerta's cast at the top of their game, we assume the bracing humanity at the core of the film.


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