Old 03-01-2001, 06:08 PM
(VIDEO) "Love and Death on Long Island" (8/10)

"Love and Death on Long Island" A Brock Landers Overview of A Suprisingly Good Film (8/10)

"Love and Death on Long Island" is a wonderful look at adolescent obsession with an entirely adult perspective. Sometimes it is humorous, and sometimes it is sad, but it is always dramatic and full of fully developed characters who are experiencing changes of some sort in their lives. Infatuation with another is just one of those things that's both devastating and funny, depending on your perspective. It is a unique spin on childhood crushes and how silly they seem to us as adults, made crystal clear by the use of an adult going through similar childhood experiences. The homosexual undertones of the central character's fascination with the younger man is another play on Hollywood's longstanding cliched archetypes as well. What really makes this film work though is the solid writing and non-stereotypical characters that change the way we perceive the "obsessed fan" genre...

The best part of this film is the performances. "Love and Death on Long Island" incorporates rank amateurs and weathered professionals to provide us with a wide array of interesting portrayals of really uninteresting characters. I mean, if these parts had been done wrong, than this film would have failed miserably, but thankfully it comes through as a rare spectacle. Jason Priestley (Ronnie Bostock) shows that he is more than just a pretty face, in a way lampooning the types of roles he usually plays. It's an interesting role for him that seems to take on a life of its own, in fact, it would almost seem to parallel some of the discontent he feels in his own real life, you know, playing stock parts in limited roles, relying on looks rather than talent, and he comes through it all exceedingly well, recognizing his limited ability. On the other end of the spectrum is John Hurt, in a quietly turbulant performance. Only Hurt could have made this role so straightforward and straightlaced...not to mention straightfaced. With a role like this, I imagine many actors would play it for laughs or as a overwhelmingly needy reject of society, but Hurt proves why he is such a masterful thesbian. Hurt adds so much reservation and sophistication to the part, that it is difficult imagining anyone else doing justice to the character. His use of subtle innuendos and quirky indignation add so much vivaciousness to the part of Giles De'Ath...

Giles De'Ath is a much esteemed British writer who is also mucho boring. He avoids anything interesting in his life and focuses on avoiding as many modern conveniences as he possibly can. Perhaps he believes that in order to function as a great writer he must shut out the world, or maybe he just thinks he's better than everybody else, the answer never becomes apparent. It is this ambiguity that makes him so intriguing to me, that and the fact that he despises television's and video cassette players. One day, much to his own dismay, he decides to go to a theatre and see a film, but only because he thinks it is an E.M. Forster film (think Merchant Ivory / Masterpiece Theatre). As the film begins, he soon figures out that he is in the wrong theatre. Instead of "Eternal Moment", he realizes he has wandered into the latest flick from American teen "matinee idol" Ronnie Bostock (Jason Priestley). By the way, the film is titled "Hotpants College II" (think "Beverly Hills 90210" meets "Porky's Revenge"... or any Freddie Prinze Jr. movie...

Giles has what some would call a religious experience while viewing the flick. It is a life-changing / affirming revelation to him and a sign that he must leave his old life, books and all, behind and seek out the latest object of his intrigue... namely Ronnie Bostock. The ensuing fixation he has on everything Bostock is hilariously sad, I mean, talk about overkill. His fascination with teeny-bopper fanclubs, his teen hunk scrapbooks and the movies he rents (after getting a television and video cassette recorder) is so childish, but done with the exact precision of an adult on a mission. Watching John Hurt buy and rent those things is like watching a young man embarassed to buy condoms or stealing a Playboy. After a while these things are not enough to quench his Bostock fetish, so he picks up and moves out to Long Island, where Ronnie lives with his girlfriend. After some initial stalking of Ronnie's girlfriend and finally meeting Ronnie, Giles decides to use all of his resources to help Ronnie achieve his dream of becoming the "real" actor that he wants to be. At moments touching and in the end heartbreaking, "Love and Death on Long Island' is at the very least entertaining...
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