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The United States of Leland (2004)

TOMATOMETER

Average Rating: 4.9/10
Reviews Counted: 90
Fresh: 31
Rotten: 59

Critics Consensus: The United States of Leland has its moments, but they're undermined by a muddled plot, unsympathetic characters, and frustratingly uneven performances.

Average Rating: 4.3/10
Reviews Counted: 29
Fresh: 7
Rotten: 22

Critics Consensus: The United States of Leland has its moments, but they're undermined by a muddled plot, unsympathetic characters, and frustratingly uneven performances.

AUDIENCE SCORE

Average Rating: 3.7/5
User Ratings: 30,204

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Movie Info

Produced by Kevin Spacey, The United States of Leland is a psychological drama concerning the aftereffects of a brutal murder. It's also the first big-studio theatrical release for writer/director Matthew Ryan Hoge, whose previous work consists of the independent comedy Self Storage. Ryan Gosling plays Leland, an imprisoned teenager doing time for the stabbing murder of a disabled boy. Prison writing teacher Pearl Madison (Don Cheadle) gets caught up in the story with the intention of making a … More

Rating:
R (for language and some drug content)
Genre:
Mystery & Suspense , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
Matthew Ryan Hoge
In Theaters:
On DVD:
Sep 7, 2004
Box Office:
$0.3M
Runtime:
Paramount Classics - Official Site


Cast


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Critic Reviews for The United States of Leland

All Critics (96) | Top Critics (32) | Fresh (31) | Rotten (59) | DVD (13)

An intriguing movie about how badly we really want to know the unknowable, what makes kids kill other kids.

Full Review… | April 16, 2004
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic

A sidetracking subplot about Madison's adulterous fling with a co-worker goes nowhere; it is one of several unsatisfying, tertiary plot strands.

Full Review… | April 15, 2004
Houston Chronicle
Top Critic

Isn't it sad that a boy like this could feel so lost that he had to kill someone? Well, maybe. But isn't it sadder that someone's dead?

Full Review… | April 9, 2004
Newark Star-Ledger
Top Critic

It's neither an insightful nor well-made film.

Full Review… | April 9, 2004
Globe and Mail
Top Critic

[Hoge] spends an awful lot of time trying to get us to understand Leland and almost none trying to get us to understand his victim.

Full Review… | April 9, 2004
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Besides being puffed up with its importance, it's also inert and totally implausible -- one of those movies where nobody behaves in a way that seems remotely human.

Full Review… | April 9, 2004
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

Uneven drama that's too intense for kids.

Full Review… | December 29, 2010
Common Sense Media

"The United States Of Leland" deftly points out dilemmas in current American ideology that frequently escalate into tragedy.

Full Review… | May 4, 2009
ColeSmithey.com

A very good film about the utter senselessness of murder...

Full Review… | April 29, 2009
Cinema Crazed

Hoge seems to take delight in the fact that the film's conclusion is so frustratingly vague, whereas in fact it's both annoying and disappointing.

Full Review… | July 5, 2005
ViewLondon

Kevin Spacey, who produced the film, is wasted in completely unnecessary role.

Full Review… | June 29, 2005

Powerful and provocative--if perhaps a bit subdued.

Full Review… | June 28, 2005
Shadows on the Wall

... the ultimate result is like one of those college rock songs that hint at a depth that just isn't there.

Full Review… | January 29, 2005
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

A muddled and uninteresting psychological melodrama.

Full Review… | September 17, 2004
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

What action there is in this movie takes forever to get going -- or maybe it just seems like forever because all of these characters are so unlikeable and unfathomable, and the dialogue between them is so trite and dumb.

Full Review… | August 8, 2004
Film Journal International

An exasperating film about teen violence and suburban dysfunction that wears its confusion like a badge of honor.

Full Review… | May 7, 2004
Des Moines Register

The drama makes us yearn to discover the reason Leland killed the boy, but the point of the movie isn't to grant us a big revealment.

Full Review… | April 23, 2004
Arizona Daily Star

It's tidy in all the least important ways, with all the questions that don't demand answers explained and all those that do left open.

Full Review… | April 22, 2004
culturevulture.net

A melancholy alt-rock soundtrack tells us that wistful regret is the appropriate reaction to almost every scene...

April 21, 2004
Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)

What Gosling accomplishes as Leland cannot be overstated in its brilliance; he gives a face, a mind and a heart to today's doped-up, condemnable teens.

Full Review… | April 19, 2004

People under 30 or those of a youthful mindset may see cracked reflections of their own lives in this morally intricate tale, but I can't help but think those of previous generations will wonder what all the fuss is about.

Full Review… | April 18, 2004
Austin Chronicle

Hoge pours his heart and his considerable writing talent into this exploration of one of our time's most puzzling phenomena: juvenile violence.

Full Review… | April 17, 2004
San Diego Metropolitan

Waste of precious art-house space.

Full Review… | April 16, 2004
Orlando Weekly

Dull.

Full Review… | April 16, 2004
Deseret News, Salt Lake City

Hoge wastes an impressive cast in his self-important study of misery and murder in American suburbia.

Full Review… | April 16, 2004

Audience Reviews for The United States of Leland

Crime. Confusion. Compassion. They're all just states of mind.

Great Film! In short, it is a well acted, well directed Śmovie. The story is not a feel good one, but I feel if you don't come away from the Śmovie feeling good, you may just have missed something. Gosling gives an incredible performance that really only somebody of his extreme talent could deliver. Somehow, Gosling is able to make the killer of an autistic child sympathetic. To characterize it as "art house" is unfair, in my opinion, but as our society likes labels, this is probably the one that fits. If you find you know everything there is to know about the world... I'd suggest skipping this one. If you feel movies should be a form of escape "from the world"... you won't find it here. But if you do watch it... you just might find something in yourself.

After stabbing an autistic boy, the sixteen year old troubled and pessimist Leland P. Fitzgerald is sent to a juvenile detention. His teacher and aspirant writer Pearl Madison gets close and tries to understand him, first with intention of writing a book, and later becoming his friend. Leland slowly discloses his sad vision of world.

More
MANUGINO
Manu Gino

Super Reviewer

Ryan Gosling, and Don Cheadle, are fantastic in this interesting take about a teenager who commits a murder, but can't recall the crime. Gosling's character, with his gentle demeanor, make it hard to grasp why he would do such a thing. Young Ryan's range of talent really shines here. He has such a way about his display of cool emotions that I find mesmerizing. Really well done film...

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itsjustme2004
Cynthia S.

Super Reviewer

"I think this is the film that really had me start paying more attention to Ryan Gosling, who is now a big favorite of mine. He plays such a complicated troubled soul in this film. His performance will make you take notice of him if you have yet to. I got very wrapped up in the story and these character's. It is an unconventional story that delivers an intense look inside a family full of tragedy. Leland Fitzgerald is quite insightful and the things he says are really thought provoking. It's just a really great film."

Leland: "I think there are two ways you can see the world. You either see the sadness that's behind everything or you choose to keep it all out."

Leland: "The worst part is knowing that there is goodness in people. Mostly it stays deep down and buried. Maybe we don't have God because we're scared of the bad stuff. Maybe we're really scared of the good stuff. Because if there's no God, well, that means it's inside of us and we could be good all the time if we wanted. So when we do bad things, it'd be because we want to or because we have to. Or maybe we just need the bad stuff to remind us what the good stuff is in the first place."

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LWOODS04
♥˩ƳИИ ƜѲѲƉƧ♥

Super Reviewer

½

There is something about Ryan Gosling that attracts films of a Psychological nature. Whilst the topic of this film, could so easily have appeared an open and shut case, we delve into a much deeper psyche in an almost Devil's Advocate view of the events.

This one could open up to discussion and debate about the rights and wrongs etc etc, another good role for the talented young Actor.

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76Majikat
Lady D'arbanville

Super Reviewer

The United States of Leland Quotes


Leland Fitzgerald:
Maybe God's there because people get scared of all the bad stuff they do.
– Submitted by Frances H (17 months ago)
Pearl Madison:
I'm only human, man.
Leland Fitzgerald:
It's funny how people only say that after they do something bad. I mean, you never hear someone say, "I'm only human" after they rescue a kid from a burning building.
– Submitted by Justin C (22 months ago)
Becky:
I don't want to hurt you.
Leland Fitzgerald:
Then don't.
– Submitted by Justin C (22 months ago)
Leland Fitzgerald:
I think there are two ways you can see the world. You either see the sadness that's behind everything or you choose to keep it all out.
– Submitted by Justin C (22 months ago)
Leland Fitzgerald:
The worst part is knowing that there is goodness in people. Mostly it stays deep down and buried. Maybe we don't have God because we're scared of the bad stuff. Maybe we're really scared of the good stuff. Because if there's no God, well, that means it's inside of us and we could be good all the time if we wanted. So when we do bad things, it'd be because we want to or because we have to. Or maybe we just need the bad stuff to remind us what the good stuff is in the first place.
– Submitted by Justin C (22 months ago)
Mrs. Calderon:
You have to believe that life is more than the sum of its parts, kiddo.
– Submitted by Derek M (2 years ago)

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