display | more...
On the Long Island Expressway there are lanes going east, lanes going west, and lanes going straight to hell.

Written, produced, and directed by Michael Cuesta, the movie L.I.E. was released in 2001 and stars Paul Franklin Dano as 15-year-old Howie Blitzer, a typically troubled teenager, and Brian Cox as the pedophile who befriends him. Howie's mother died in an accident on the Long Island Expressway when he was young, and his father (Bruce Altman) has brought a new woman into what Howie still calls "Mommy's bed." Having fallen in with the wrong crowd, the boy spends his spare time breaking into his neighbors' homes and stealing their money and valuables. One night, Howie and his friend Gary - whose ambiguous sexuality confuses Howie - break into the home of Big John (Brian Cox) and steal a couple of valuable guns. Gary (Billy Kay) runs away to California, leaving Howie to work off the thousand-dollar debt owed for the loss of the guns. The 55-year-old Big John admits he wants to be intimate with Howie, despite the obvious distress this causes John's houseboy Scott. When Howie's father lands in federal prison, Big John is the only one he has left to turn to.

L.I.E. was given a rating of NC-17 despite only a few "bad words" - there is no pornography shown. Mild violence includes Howie's father punching him in the face and teenagers getting into fistfights. Lot 47, the distribution company that picked up the film from Sundance, is encouraging the addition of a new "Adult" or "Mature" rating level, to fit between R and NC-17, for films that deal with mature topics but do not show pornography or excessive violence.

Imagine being at a crossroad and having to choose between paths without knowing where each one leads. That is the situation Howie Blitzer (Paul Franklin Dano), finds himself in. Overlooking the Long Island Expressway (the unabbreviated title of the film L.I.E. directed by Michael Cuerta), teeming with speeding cars, he utters the film’s tagline quote “there are lanes moving east, lanes moving west, and lanes that go straight to hell." Howie might be pondering how a turn on the highway, decided in seconds time, may cause a fatal accident like the one that killed his mother Sylvia. Or he might be thinking about the consequences of the risky decisions he makes in life. Will they draw him into trouble or leave him unscathed? Having to make choices on his own without the knowledge of how the world works is a dilemma that plagues every teenager. While many movies focus on the fun aspect of the teenage years, this one explores their instability and uncertainty.

Howie’s vulnerability makes him extend his trust to people who could take advantage of him and drag him into dangerous situations. Saddened by his mother’s death and estranged from his father, Howie cherishes his attachment to his friend Gary. So when he is offered to accompany Gary (Billy Kay) to a stealing mission, he peevishly accepts to follow along naively trusting that his friend won’t get him into trouble. While it may be tempting to say that he should have known better, the choice makes sense in the context of his life. A criminal activity may obviously stand out as an egregious error in judgment, but not to a lonely teenager who may otherwise lose his only friend. The director is very skillful in making the viewer understand Howie’s desperate need for belonging and friendship is liable to make him take extreme risks. Howie even thinks about running away from home and going to California with Gary.

Howie faces another equally perilous decision in which his need to find companionship and understanding puts him in danger of becoming a victim of sexual abuse. The boy is drawn towards “Big John,”(Brian Cox), a 55 year old man, who provides him with support. This happens at a difficult moment when Howie finds that his father is not at home and fears that he has been abandoned by the parent. Locked out of his house, he agrees to spend the night at Howie's house, even though. John helps Howie through his worries about his father (who, as Howie later finds out, was arrested) by giving him a room to stay. In a poignant scene, the boy cries on the old man’s shoulder.

However Howie’s trust towards John is mixed with suspicion. Despite accepting the old man’s help in a difficult time, Howie knows he might regret it later. While letting Howie stay at his place, John hasn’t yet forced the boy into sexual activity. However, the older man’s casual references to his sexual preferences, along with photos of young boys lying around, constantly hint at the threat. Thus the viewer, along with Howie himself, doesn’t know how it will have played out; whether the boy has wisely picked a friend in time in need or made himself a victim of sexual abuse.

The double nature of John’s personality as nurturer and abuser is the most unnerving aspect of the film. It shows that tendency sexually predatory behavior isn’t that easy to detect. The media-image of the pedophile as the withdrawn, sullen man with a demonic glint in his eyes makes one think that we can easily identify and shield ourselves from such men. However, John’s charming and friendly demeanor makes him seem like a likable guy. The fact that his vicious habit appears to be separated from the rest of his personality reveals the painful truth that it’s not easy to protect against evils like pedophilia because they can spring out unexpectedly from outwardly normal individuals.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.