(aka 'Long Island Expressway')


directed by Michael Cuesta
USA 2001

Review by David Tausik

L.I.E. is a downbeat but rewarding coming-of-age story about 15-year-old Howie Blitzer, an intelligent boy who seems to have inherited a socially and culturally bankrupt life amid the affluence of Long Island, N.Y.  The L.I.E. of the title, the Long Island Expressway, is the ubiquitous roadway that took the life of Howie’s mother in an auto accident and threatens to take away his best friend who wants to flee to California.  Howie’s father is an ambiguous character, involved in lies and shady business practices, and Howie is unable to find anyone who can positively influence his life.  He tells us the L.I.E. has lanes going east, lanes going west, and lanes going straight to hell.  The question is, which way is Howie headed?

Director Michael Cuesta, who co-wrote the film with Stephen M. Ryder, sidesteps cliché and delivers a satisfying drama with the help of an excellent and largely unknown cast.  Cuesta has a gift for making the absurd and exaggerated seem believable, and we grow to care very much for our main characters. 

The culturally impoverished predicament of the characters is nicely juxtaposed with their wealthy surroundings, and Cuesta finds something for us to like in even the most awful people.  The story remains involving, with some suspense and unexpected turns, until the satisfying conclusion.

Technical credits are top-notch for a low-budget indie film as well.  The film is well shot, and the anamorphic DVD transfer is sharp, bright, and colorful.  The director’s commentary is one of the few good ones I’ve heard; Cuesta provides insight into the production and the choices he made without pomposity.

L.I.E. is rated NC-17 for its frank dealing with young Howie’s sexuality, but Cuesta knows when to leave details to the imagination, and the film is not overly graphic in the way it depicts Howie’s harrowing world.  If you, like me, can appreciate a sad and sordid drama in the mold of Midnight Cowboy, L.I.E. is well worth seeing.

 DVD Review: New Yorker Video  Region 1 

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Distribution New Yorker Video Region 1 - NTSC 

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