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IN SHORT: 3/4 of a very entertaining, small flick.. [Rated PG-13 for brief strong language, thematic elements and some sexual content.]
As always, Cranky makes no comparison with Source Material (which is easy since I've never even heard of the writer, Gilbert Adair)
Now what the hell does cranky mean by 75% of a movie? He means that Love and Death on Long Island starts in high gear and as it gains focus, it loses steam. Love and Death is the story of lonely old Englishman Giles De'Ath, (John Hurt, who has the face for this part and knows it), and the unrequited love he finds with a movie star teen heart throb. De'Ath is a writer whose mindset is anchored firmly in the early part of the twentieth century. He's not old fashioned. He's just way out of touch with how the real world works.
Sitting in his office, working in a three piece tweed suit, the man has no concept of what a videotape player is or how it works (leading to one of the funniest gags in the flick) or of any modern conveniences like fax machines, answering machines, PC's. He doesn't watch television. He doesn't go to the movies. He doesn't drive a car. Were it not for his housekeeper, he'd probably starve to death on a diet of Tostitos.
Then one day, at the urging of his agent (who wants to sell adaptations of De'Ath's books for the big screen) Giles goes to see an adaptation of a novel by another author. He buys the wrong ticket and winds up watching a Porky's genre flick called Hotpants College 2. The film is boring to the nth degree, but star power is radiating power from the screen and the widower Giles falls instantly, madly in love with the star of the film.
Who would be Ronnie Bostock (Jason Priestly), American TV star turned bad -- as in he's really not a great actor -- movie star and avowed heterosexual who's shacked up with his girlfriend Audrey (Fiona Loewi) in a small town on Long Island.
The fun part is not in the unrequited love theme. The fun is in, what would be in any other hands, a "stalkers R us" situation. Giles, this 60ish old man, comes full blast into the 90s, learning to rent videos, cut pictures out of teen magazines, and hide his obsession from everyone. Hired to give a lecture about "The Death of the Future," he pontificates on the different types of smiles an actor can use.It's a truly adorable and entertaining bit of work by John Hurt made even moreso by director Richard Kwietniowski's intercutting shots of Jason Priestly demonstrating each type of smile.
Giles' obsession manifests in ways that lead his agent to insist that he take vacation to clear his head of whatever is messing around up there. The vacation destination is the same town where Ronnie lives, and from there on in Love and Death becomes a find the star, befriend the star, confess to the star story. As it moves from the comedy of out-of-touch/becoming-in-touch man to the tale of a repressed and desperate longing, it slows down and rolls over.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Love and Death on Long Island, he would have paid . . .
Despite the gay themes, Love and Death on Long Island is not a political flick. It doesn't try to force home a PC equality statement. It is, if nothing else, a gentle flick which should leave you all feeling nothing but sadness for the lonely old man.
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