And yet another trainwreck for Kevin Spacey. In the tradition of perfectly respectable actors taking a step or 10 in the wrong direction, our man Kev follows K-Pax, Pay it Forward and The Life of David Gale with further punishment for unsuspecting moviegoers in the heartbreakingly vapid The United States of Leland. Spacey knows it's a bust and can't even show his face; on the movie poster, the man labeled as Kevin Spacey is not in fact Kevin Spacey, but the lesser known actor Martin Donovan -- who spends the entire movie making a big stink just because someone up and knifed his autistic son. Yeah, cry me a river.
Heartless, you ask? Leland P. Fitzgerald (played by a seemingly constipated Ryan Gosling), a high school student, is dumped by his girlfriend and goes to juvie for murdering her little brother. Lo and behold, Leland is not the deranged homicidal freak the media wishes he were, but the thoughtful, pensive son of a famous novelist (Spacey). Don Cheadle plays a juvie teacher and aspiring writer who befriends Leland in an almost entirely self-serving attempt to find material for a book.
The premise is not unpromising: writer/director Matthew Ryan Hoge attempts to make murder into an act that is human and strangely beautiful. The entire film is warmly lit and imbued with bright colors. But the dialogue is stale, cringeworthy even, like when Leland's girlfriend (Jena Malone) asks him to be her "guardian angel." Barf on a stick. The performances are unmemorable (save Kevin Spacey, who could be the saving grace of this movie if we saw him for more than about 10 minutes), and the film is largely just another tired take on the whole misunderstood youth clich‚.