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The United States of Leland (2004)

tomatometer

34

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

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

24

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

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

audience

82

liked it
Average Rating: 3.7/5
User Ratings: 30,165

My Rating

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

R,

Mystery & Suspense, Drama

Matthew Ryan Hoge

Sep 7, 2004

$0.3M

Paramount Classics - Official Site External Icon

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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.

April 16, 2004 Full Review Source: Orlando Sentinel
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic IconTop Critic

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

April 15, 2004 Full Review Source: Houston Chronicle
Houston Chronicle
Top Critic IconTop 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?

April 9, 2004 Full Review Source: Newark Star-Ledger
Newark Star-Ledger
Top Critic IconTop Critic

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

April 9, 2004 Full Review Source: Globe and Mail
Globe and Mail
Top Critic IconTop 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.

April 9, 2004 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop 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.

April 9, 2004 Full Review Source: San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Uneven drama that's too intense for kids.

December 29, 2010 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

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

May 4, 2009 Full Review Source: ColeSmithey.com
ColeSmithey.com

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

April 29, 2009 Full Review Source: Cinema Crazed
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.

July 5, 2005 Full Review Source: ViewLondon
ViewLondon

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

June 29, 2005 Full Review Source: Draxblog Movie Reviews

Powerful and provocative--if perhaps a bit subdued.

June 28, 2005 Full Review Source: Shadows on the Wall
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.

January 29, 2005 Full Review Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

A muddled and uninteresting psychological melodrama.

September 17, 2004 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
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.

August 8, 2004 Full Review Source: Film Journal International
Film Journal International

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

May 7, 2004 Full Review Source: Des Moines Register
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.

April 23, 2004 Full Review Source: Arizona Daily Star
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.

April 22, 2004 Full Review Source: culturevulture.net
culturevulture.net

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

April 21, 2004 | Comment (1)
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.

April 19, 2004 Full Review Source: FilmStew.com

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.

April 18, 2004 Full Review Source: Austin Chronicle
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.

April 17, 2004 Full Review Source: San Diego Metropolitan
San Diego Metropolitan

Waste of precious art-house space.

April 16, 2004 Full Review Source: Orlando Weekly
Orlando Weekly

Dull.

April 16, 2004 Full Review Source: Deseret News, Salt Lake City
Deseret News, Salt Lake City

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

April 16, 2004 Full Review Source: Boulder Weekly

Audience Reviews for The United States of Leland

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...
April 29, 2013
itsjustme2004

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."
April 4, 2013
LWOODS04
♥˩ƳИИ ƜѲѲƉƧ♥

Super Reviewer

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.
August 7, 2011
76Majikat

Super Reviewer

Movies Like The United States of Leland

    1. Leland Fitzgerald: Maybe God's there because people get scared of all the bad stuff they do.
    – Submitted by Frances H (14 months ago)
    1. Pearl Madison: I'm only human, man.
    2. 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 (19 months ago)
    1. Becky: I don't want to hurt you.
    2. Leland Fitzgerald: Then don't.
    – Submitted by Justin C (19 months ago)
    1. 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 (19 months ago)
    1. 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 (19 months ago)
    1. Mrs. Calderon: You have to believe that life is more than the sum of its parts, kiddo.
    – Submitted by Derek M (2 years ago)
View all quotes (6)

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