Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Michael Cuesta|
|Produced by||Michael Cuesta
|Written by||Michael Cuesta
Stephen M. Ryder
|Music by||Pierre Földes|
|Editing by||Eric Carlson
|Studio||Alter Ego Entertainment
|Distributed by||New Yorker Films
Lot 47 Films
|Running time||97 minutes|
L.I.E. is a 2001 American drama film about a relationship between Howie, a 15-year-old boy, and a pedophile known as "Big John". The title is an acronym for the Long Island Expressway. The film was directed by Michael Cuesta, who has said that the film is about exploring sexuality. It stars Paul Dano as Howie and Brian Cox as Big John.
Howie Blitzer is deeply affected by the death of his mother in a car accident on the Long Island Expressway. His situation is exacerbated by his acrimonious relationship with his distant father Marty, who brought a trophy girlfriend into the house less than a month after his wife's death. Howie's only solace is the company of his best friend Gary Terrio, a juvenile delinquent and hustler. Although Gary is attracted to Howie, Howie is unsure of his own sexuality. They have two other friends their age, one of whom, Kevin, has an incestuous relationship with his sister. The four boys routinely break into neighborhood houses.
One night, they break into the house of Big John Harrigan during his birthday party. Gary knows his way around the house; it is later revealed Big John is one of his steady clients. When Big John discovers them, he rips a pocket off Howie's pants as they escape with a pair of valuable North Vietnamese pistols.
John confronts Gary over the burglary and Gary names Howie as his accomplice. He approaches the boy at a diner, pretending that he knew his mother. He offers the boy a ride home and Howie is impressed that Big John happens to drive Howie's dream car. Once he has gained Howie's trust, however, he pulls out the torn pocket and demands that Howie return the guns. Howie gets only one gun back from Gary's room, and returns it. John wants $1000 compensation for the other gun and Howie offers to work for him to pay off the debt. John puts on a pornographic video, then sits down beside Howie. He starts to stroke the boy's thigh and says, "What have you got that's worth a thousand dollars?" Howie does not respond to his advances, and quickly leaves the house. When he returns home, Howie masturbates to a fantasy involving both John and the girl in the video. Gary then steals money from Howie's father and disappears to Los Angeles. This abandonment affects Howie and his confusion over his sexual identity worsens.
John and Howie begin a tenuous friendship in which John becomes a kind of father figure to the boy. There is no sexual activity, but there is talk of sex. Howie realizes that he wields sexual power over John, something John is all too aware of. Howie stays over at John's house and John asks Scott, his 19-year-old lover, to go and stay in a motel for a few nights. Howie wanders round the house and discovers a stash of child pornography. Some are pictures of a younger Gary and others are of a blond 11-year-old boy, confirming that John is a pedophile. Scott comes into the room and warns Howie not to take John from him.
Meanwhile, Marty, whose fraudulent construction practices are unraveling, happens to see Howie playing hooky from school. He loses his temper and hits the boy. That same day, he is arrested for installing cheap wiring, and when Howie returns home to find him missing, believes his father has abandoned him. Later that evening he comes into John's bedroom wearing just his underpants, expecting John to sleep with him. When John tells Howie his father didn't abandon him, but is in jail, Howie breaks down and cries. John leaves him to sleep by himself.
The next morning, John is all charm, fixing Howie breakfast and taking him to see his father in jail. Howie's father apologizes for hitting him, and promises to spend more time with him once he is out of prison. Howie is unconvinced, and merely tells his father never to hit him again.
After dropping Howie off, John returns to the local rest area where young hustlers wait for johns, and sits in his car. Scott, devastated by John's abandonment, drives by and shoots him dead.
In the final scene, Howie contemplates the expressway, vowing he won't let it get him too.
- Brian Cox as Big John Harrigan
- Paul Franklin Dano as Howie Blitzer
- Billy Kay as Gary Terrio
- Bruce Altman as Marty Blitzer
- Walter Masterson as Scott
- James Costa as Kevin Cole
- Adam LeFevre as Elliot
- Tony Donnelly as Brian
- B. Constance Barry as Anne Harrigan
- Gladys Dano as Voice of Sylvia Blitzer
Because Paul Dano was underage at the time of production, his mother, Gladys, was present on set and additionally plays the non-speaking role of Howie's deceased mother, Sylvia, in several flashback and dream sequences.
Sexual identity is a major theme in the film; director Michael Cuesta has said that the ambiguity of Howie's sexual orientation and his relationship with Big John and Gary is at the heart of the film.
Brian Cox has said, "Big John realizes that Howie is much more than a little boy, a young boy he can hit on". Cuesta has said that John is confused, and doesn’t know if he wanted "to be with him, sexually, or just father him".
L.I.E. received an NC-17 rating from the MPAA, although the rating was later surrendered and the film was released without a rating. Both an edited version which received an R rating ("for strong sexual content involving teens, language, and brief violence") and the original unrated/uncut film are available on DVD.
Awards and nominations
- Independent Spirit Award
- Independent Spirit Award
- L.I.E. at the Internet Movie Database
- L.I.E. at Box Office Mojo
- L.I.E. at Metacritic
- L.I.E. at Interrogation Reports