The United States of Leland Matthew Ryan Hoge

Leland P. Fitzgerald is a teenager who is supposed to impress us with the maturity of his thoughts. Like Ricky Fitts from American Beauty, or the titular teen from Donnie Darko, he thinks a lot about the world and the beauty and darkness in it. The problem with Leland in comparison to these other two filmic teen boys is that he is not deep; he is just creepy. The film starts with the realisation that Leland (Ryan Gosling) has just killed a mentally handicapped kid, who also happens to be his girlfriend's brother. Once in juvenile hall he meets a teacher, Pearl (Don Cheadle), who quickly becomes fascinated by him and sets out to write a book about his story. The rest of the movie tells the tale of Leland's life leading up to this climactic murderous event as told through non-linear flashbacks. Because the whole film is told in chunks (and because there are many different characters) the viewer doesn't have a chance to get to know anyone very well. Pearl is the only character who lives on the screen in chronological order and because of this Don Cheadle is the best thing about the film. The DVD itself offers no extras and only trailers as the special feature. It is as minimal as Leland's emotional range. Though he is constantly spouting wisdom, he never expresses any feeling about anything he says or does. Perhaps this means he is a psychopath, which would explain the murder, but it doesn't justify why so many people are enamoured with him. Still, despite the lack of a sympathetic main character, there is enough wonder revolving around the question of why Leland killed this kid to make the movie watchable and even semi-interesting. (Paramount)