Generally unfavorable reviews - based on 27 Critics What's this?

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Generally favorable reviews- based on 27 Ratings

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  • Starring: , ,
  • Summary: On an ordinary school day in California, a seemingly ordinary student named Leland Fitzgerald (Gosling) commits a devastating, inexplicable crime...and changes everything forever...not only for Leland but his family, friends and the teacher who becomes obsessed with trying to figure out why. (Paramount Classics) Expand
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 3 out of 27
  2. Negative: 10 out of 27
  1. 80
    Thoroughly entertaining and will possibly get you thinking about certain choices you've made in your life.
  2. A complex and often compelling melodrama, at times almost verging on soap opera.
  3. The screenplay aims high in terms of humanity and complexity, but director Hoge drains it of energy with listless meanderings that provide more yawns than insights.
  4. 40
    The characters' undiluted self-interest will seem one-dimensional to all but the worst cynics.
  5. 40
    Hoge, who scripted and directed The United States Of Leland, caters to his cast too much. He gives almost every character a way-too-involved subplot, which distracts from the heart of his story.
  6. The United States of Leland has a resonance of "Elephant" without the visual poetry or structural sophistication, or "American Beauty" without the leavening comedy, but it's neither an insightful nor well-made film.
  7. The United States of Leland is tedious yet infuriating, since its characters, all of whom seem to have emerged from a screenwriter's manual, are like exhibits in a thesis meant to indict the middle class for the crime of its collective dysfunction.

See all 27 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 10 out of 15
  2. Negative: 4 out of 15
  1. AndrewD.
    Dec 28, 2005
    Absolutly fantastic film....will make you think
  2. Sep 30, 2010
    Ryan Gosling is drawn to flawed characters; Believer, Fracture, the Slaughter Rule, Lars and the Real Girl, Stay, all these movies portray a flawed character but one that the audience can sympathize with U.S. of Leland is no different a very thought provoking movie, with quality acting, and an excellent original soundtrack by Jeremy Enigk of Sunny Day Real Estate. Outside of the story and acting there are no other exceptional film making characteristics. Expand
  3. LarryJ
    Sep 30, 2005
    [***SPOILERS***] Professional critics, for the most part, missed the point of this movie. Why did Leland do it? In the first part of the movie we are led to think that there might have been a motivation akin to what we might find in Camus' "The Stranger": I just wanted to see what it'd feel like. However, as the movie progresses, and we are given more insight into Leland's psyche, we discover that he is deeply troubled. His perceptions of the world as full to the brim of profound sadness reveal his inadequate grasp of reality. His comiseration with some of the afflicted is what leads him to do it. Leland's killing is a mercy killing. He took himself to be helping, not hurting. When Leland perceives the kid eyeing a woman, Leland knows that the desire will go forever unsatisfied. When Leland sees the kid trying to ride through the tree, he sees that though the kid may want to progress, there are obstacles that will never allow it. Leland commits a mercy killing. Has he done something wrong? Of course. Does he deserve our pity? Yes. Have any critics who panned this movie understood it's subtle take on the complexity of desire and motivation? No! Expand
  4. Mar 16, 2014
    Ryan Gosling stars in what many consider to be his breakout role, playing a modern day Holden Caufield, who has committed a heinous crime. While the story has some tremendous performances, it really lacks any substance, rehashing the events of the past week, over and over again. We know right from the beginning of the film, that Leland killed a retard boy, what we don't know is why. The focus of the film is discovering what lead this highly intelligent, son of a celebrity, to commit such an act. The film has a huge cast of celebrities, that include Don Cheadle, Kevin Spacey, Chris Klein, and Michelle Williams, all of whom are as good as you would expect. What the film has in talent, it lacks in substance, as it's really just a whole lot of Leland talking in code. The writers go out of their way to show Leland as this deep, emotionless kid, that's been trapped inside his own mind his entire life. As the film goes on, the more Leland opens up. The writers paint the portrait of this kid and show you ever aspect of his life, in the hopes that you will figure out his true motivation before it comes out. The result is a slow moving film that causes the audience to gradually lose interest as time goes on. There is no doubt the Ryan Gosling was spectacular and deserves every good thing said about his performance, but the story seems to move slowly and in circles. The writers made it much more in depth than it had to be and most audiences will be turned off by it. Expand
  5. HollyC.
    Dec 27, 2005
    I understand the bad reviews of this film, as the dialogue, various outskirt characters and plot points fell apart. This film feels very writerly--like a good short story or novel (indeed, writer themes/characters are everywhere)--but it was ultimately adapted very poorly into a motion picture. Regardless of these problems, I do find that Ryan Gosling and Don Cheadle did remarkably well. The moral debate going on in this film--while engaging, is quite sophmoric in the end, which is too bad. The comparison one user review made to Donnie Darko, I think, is a bit generous as Darko was very well written, acted and directed. This film had some great actors--the direction was ok but the writing and plot devices fell through. The story, in the end, did seem muddled--and possibly better looking on paper then screen. Expand
  6. MiguelG.
    Nov 28, 2006
    The film does not tell anything, does not have any insight in any particular issue and it definitely has no complexity. Nothing to save apart of Kevin Sapcy's acting. Expand

See all 15 User Reviews