The United States of Leland (2004) - Rotten Tomatoes

The United States of Leland (2004)



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

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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 book out of it, especially when he finds out that Leland's father is the famous novelist Albert Fitzgerald (Spacey). Pearl's investigation uncovers some of the details and effects of the murder for everyone involved, including the victim's parents, Harry (Martin Donovan) and Karen Pollard (Ann Magnuson). Jena Malone plays Becky, the teenage junkie who is both Leland's ex-girlfriend and the victim's sister. The situation also complicates the relationship between Becky's older sister, Jennifer (Michelle Williams), and her sensitive boyfriend, Allen (Chris Klein). The United States of Leland premiered at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival. ~ Andrea LeVasseur, Rovi

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Don Cheadle
as Pearl Madison
Ryan Gosling
as Leland P. Fitzgerald
Chris Klein
as Allen Harris
Jena Malone
as Becky Pollard
Lena Olin
as Marybeth Fitzgerald
Kevin Spacey
as Albert T. Fitzgerald
Michelle Williams
as Julie Pollard
Martin Donovan
as Harry Pollard
Ann Magnuson
as Karen Pollard
Sherilyn Fenn
as Mrs. Calderon
Matt Molloy
as Charlie
Michael Peña
as Guillermo
Michael Welch
as Ryan Pollard
Yolonda Ross
as Miranda
Leyna Nguyen
as T.T. Reporter
Randall Bosley
as Sheriff Donaldson
Joy Wood
as Cop No.1
Robert Peters
as Security Guard
Tony McEwing
as News Anchor
Lawrence Lowe
as Detention Specialist
Charles Hess
as Main Entrance Guard
Angela Paton
as Airplane Woman
Ryan Malgarini
as Six-year-old Leland
Maria Arce
as Bethany
Dell Yount
as Court Officer
Melanie Lora
as Hotel Waitress
Rene Rivera
as Mechanic
Alec Medlock
as Twelve-year-old Leland
Jim Metzler
as Cemetery Reporter
Michael McCleery
as Mechanic No.2
David Barrera
as First Officer
Sheeri Rappaport
as Second Officer
Evan Helmuth
as Grocery Guy
Ty Hodges
as Student
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Critic Reviews for The United States of Leland

All Critics (93) | Top Critics (34)

Uneven drama that's too intense for kids.

December 29, 2010 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

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 | Rating: 2.5/5 | Full Review…

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

April 16, 2004 | Rating: 4/5

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 | Rating: C+ | Full Review…
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?

April 9, 2004

[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…

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 ×movie. The story is not a feel good one, but I feel if you don't come away from the ×movie 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.

Manu Gino
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...

Cynthia S.
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."


Super Reviewer

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