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"TELLING LIES IN AMERICA"
(1997) (Kevin Bacon, Brad Renfro) (PG-13)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Mild None Heavy None None
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Moderate None None Minor Moderate
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Moderate Moderate Mild Mild Minor


QUICK TAKE:
Drama: A teen is seduced into the world of early 1960's rock n roll radio by a flamboyant deejay and finds himself faced with decisions of what's right or wrong.
PLOT:
Karchy Jonas (BRAD RENFRO) is a high school senior at an exclusive Catholic school in 1961 Cleveland. Picked on by the rich kids because he and his father, Istvan (MAXIMILIAN SCHELL) are blue collar Hungarian immigrants, Karchy aspires for something more in his life and discovers that telling lies creates the impression he's someone greater than he is. He also idolizes Billy Magic (KEVIN BACON), a flamboyant local radio deejay, and his smooth, but high living lifestyle. After forging signatures to win a radio station contest, Karchy becomes well known, but still can't get a date with Diney Majeski (CALISTA FLOCKHART), his older co-worker. Magic likes the teen's spunk and willingness to break the rules, however, and takes him under his wing as his personal assistant. Soon Karchy's living the high life and emulates Magic's attitude and behavior. Things change, though, when he realizes that Magic's accepting bribes from rock n roll managers to play their records on the air. Soon he's faced with the dilemma of following his father's beliefs and teachings, or those of his new friend. As Karchy's old and new lifestyles clash, he must decide whether to do what makes him feel good or do what he knows is right.
WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
Unless they're fans of someone in the cast, it's not very likely.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: PG-13
For sex-related situations.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • BRAD RENFRO plays a teen who's prone to initially telling white lies that soon turn into bigger, more dangerous ones. In the end, he's lied to his father, the police, and a grand jury about his and Magic's actions. Along the way he takes up smoking, drinking, driving without a license, and has sex with two different women.
  • KEVIN BACON plays a flamboyant deejay who not only drinks and smokes, but also uses Karchy as a patsy to accept payola from record producers. He also hires prostitutes for himself and once for Karchy.
  • CALISTA FLOCKHART plays Karchy's older co-worker who has a soft spot for him. She does have sex with him despite being recently engaged to another man. Despite that, she is the one who straightens out most of Karchy's "bad" behavior.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
    Reuniting two actors (Bacon and Renfro) who appeared in last year's "Sleepers," this film mixes the formulas of two well-used plots -- the 1950-ish coming of age story and the wealth corrupts the innocent story -- and is moderately successful at creating an effective, entertaining combination. With a solid, but uneventful script from renowned (some would say infamous) screenwriter, Joe Eszterhas, the plot is decent and continually holds our interest, but isn't anything out of the ordinary. One of his earlier works, it's small in scale compared to his big hits ("Jagged Edge," "Basic Instinct") and colossal flops ("Showgirls," "Jade"), but it's meant to be seen as a more intimate story.

    Essentially a semi-autobiographical tale (Eszterhas was also a Hungarian immigrant who grew up in 1960's Cleveland), the story follows the highly effective story of a kid who's picked on because he's different who then suddenly has it all -- freedom, money and women. Well, not all of the women in this case, and Karchy's continued attempts to win over the heart of his grounded love interest are where the story really works. Diney, with her reluctant romantic feelings for him, instantly deflates his blown up ego and brings him back down to Earth, and these quieter moments are a nice contrast to those with Billy Magic.

    The other part of the movie that shines is Kevin Bacon's ("Apollo 13," "The River Wild") performance as that fast-talking deejay hustler. While you certainly don't like his character, he's entirely believable and you can't help but be drawn to his wheeler-dealer persona. For afficionados of the popular game, "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon," this film adds more actors and actresses that link him with many others and further cement his status as the true center of the Hollywood universe. Renfro ("The Client") also delivers a believable and sympathetic take on his character, a young man who's seduced into a world over his head. While he learns and grows from his experience, however, he emerges as a less-likeable character.

    That's essentially a problem for the movie, in that it decides not to take the standard Hollywood approach and make the character return to being good after living a life of bad. Sure, that's how real life is sometimes, as experiences harden people who then evolve into someone different from the way they were when we first met them. It is growth, but in a movie where the kid gets away with his illegal and morally questionable actions, you leave the theater not really liking him anymore. While it certainly doesn't ruin the movie, it leaves a bit of a bad taste in one's mouth and lessens one's liking of the film. Added to that is that the film often comes off as mediocre, the kind of movie that will leave your mind not long after you've seen it. You know, it's like that other movie....let's see what was the title? You know, it was about the guy who....Anyway, you get the idea. Although the decent performances keep it from receiving a bad rating, there's not much else there to highly recommend it. For those reasons, we give "Telling Lies in America" a 5 out of 10.

    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    Some sexually related material, moderate profanity, and the main character's penchant for lying highlight the film's material. There are several implied sexual encounters -- some with prostitutes -- and a greater amount of sexually oriented dialogue and discussions (including brief references to oral sex and masturbation). 10 "s" words and a few slang genital references are the worst of the profanity. The main character's continuous lying will probably trouble most parents. Not only does he lie to his father, the police and a grand jury under oath, but he gets away without any repercussions, certainly not something you'd want children to learn is possible (especially on this grand scale). Additionally, Karchy is so drawn to Magic, his idol and less than desirable role model, and is so seduced by his world, that he defends him even when he knows the man is breaking the law. Beyond that there's some drinking and smoking, and some kids pick on Karchy because he's different. While it's questionable whether many kids will want to see this film, you should check out the material if you or someone in your house should want to see it.

    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • Magic drinks liquor from the bottle while onboard a bus.
  • Magic drinks a beer with lunch and later drinks liquor from a flask and calls it "liquid courage."
  • Magic drinks vodka and Karchy has a beer in two different bar scenes.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • None.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Magic accepts bribes from managers to play their records on the radio and later lies to the police when denying any involvement in payola.
  • Magic also uses Karchy in a plan to accept such payola for him, and introduces him to smoking, beer, sex, and lets him drive his car without a license.
  • Karchy makes up many white lies, things he uses to fit in with others. Later, he accepts Magic's lifestyle, forgoes school (he gets kicked out for acting like a priest in a confessional), and lies to his father, the police, and a grand jury about accepting the above bribes. In doing so, he knowingly endangers his father's dream of becoming a U.S. citizen.
  • Magic approaches a receptionist and asks her, "Do you have a pair of t*tties in there, or are you just playing dress up?"
  • Some school bullies pick on Karchy. He has his books knocked to the floor, his portable radio broken, and chocolate milk spilled onto his radio station jacket.
  • Karchy pours some "Spanish fly" into Diney's milkshake, hoping it will make her sexually aroused.
  • Karchy tells a story to a priest in a confessional that starts out serious, but he then says the following about being with a girl: "I woke up in the morning to take a piss, looked down, and all I saw were teeth marks. She nearly chewed it half off."
  • Karchy goes into a confessional and acts like a priest so that he can hear the school bully's confession.
  • Magic helps Karchy's friend cut a record deal, but arranges it so that he gets seventy percent of the profits for himself.
  • The local police threaten to derail Karchy and his father's naturalization plans if Karchy won't tell the truth about Magic and his bribes.
  • Diney sleeps with Karchy although she just got engaged.
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • None.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • None.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "Dipsh*t," "Punk," "Jerk," "White trash," "Screwing" (sexual), "Piss," "Geez," "Laid" (sexual), "Screw" (nonsexual), and "Screwed up."
  • Karchy often makes up stories or lies about himself to fit in with others or make it seem like he's done things he hasn't.
  • Karchy spits at himself in the mirror after his Hungarian accent prevents him from correctly pronouncing the word "the."
  • Some school bullies pick on Karchy. He has his books knocked to the floor, his portable radio broken, and chocolate milk spilled onto his radio station jacket. They also call him "Joe-ass" instead of Jonas.
  • Magic flicks a cigarette onto the street and Karchy tosses a torn up contract out a car window (littering).
  • Karchy drives Magic's car without a license (and Magic encourages him to do so).
  • Karchy pours some "Spanish fly" into Diney's milkshake, hoping it will make her sexually aroused.
  • Magic tells Karchy to put a rubber band on his tongue to help him correct his pronunciation of the word "the," and Karchy tries it once.
  • Karchy goes into a confessional and acts like a priest so that he can hear the school bully's confession.
  • JUMP SCENES
  • None.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • None.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • One song contains a line stating, "I'm gonna get a jug of wine..."
  • PROFANITY
  • 10 "s" words, 2 slang terms for male genitals (the "d" and "p" words), 1 slang term for breasts (the "t" word), 7 asses (3 used with "hole"), 7 hells, 4 damns, 1 S.O.B., and 4 uses of "G-damn," 3 uses each of "For Christ's sakes" and "Jesus Christ," 2 uses of "Oh Jesus," and 1 use each of "Oh God," "Oh Lord," "Holy Jesus," "God" and "Jesus" as exclamations.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • A hooker gets out of bed with Magic, dresses, and takes her money. However, no nudity or activity is seen.
  • Magic approaches a receptionist and asks her, "Do you have a pair of t*tties in there, or are you just playing dress up?"
  • Karchy's friend says "Driving that thing would be more fun than doing it' (comparing a Cadillac to sex).
  • Magic makes a comment (related to a woman on the phone), "I woke up in the morning to take a piss, looked down, and all I saw were teeth marks." Karchy later repeats the same in a confessional and adds, "She nearly chewed it half off."
  • Karchy's friend gives him some "penicillin pills" before his date with Diney and says, "Take two now...you get laid...you won't get any diseases. He also gives Karchy some "Spanish Fly" and says, "Put it in her drink -- she'll be ready to do the doorknob." He also leaves him several condoms.
  • Karchy pours some "Spanish fly" into Diney's milkshake, hoping it will make her sexually aroused.
  • Magic tells Karchy he can come along on his date "for sloppy seconds." He then asks Karchy if he's ever "done the nasty" and if he's "made the love connection." Karchy says he has, but he's lying.
  • Magic sets up a "date" with a hooker for Karchy (unbeknownst to him). He says, "See the blond back there with the headlights (breasts)? She wants you, Slick. She's so hot you'll have to hose her down." Later, the foursome heads to a motel room where Magic and a woman go into the bedroom and make some sexual sounds. The hooker with Karchy has him unzip her dress and later we see them under some sheets on the floor, implying they had sex.
  • Later, Karchy tells his friend, "I got laid." When he finds out the woman was a hooker, however, Karchy is upset but Magic says, "It doesn't matter how you get it, as long as you get it."
  • Karchy sneaks into a confessional and acts like the priest. The school bully then comes in and tells him about masturbating several times a day and that he "can't keep my hands off it...until it hurts when I touch it."
  • Karchy and Diney have sex, but we only see them afterwards and don't see any activity or nudity.
  • SMOKING
  • Magic smokes quite often throughout the film while Karchy smokes a few times.
  • Some people smoke in the backgrounds of scenes.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • Karchy mentions that his mother died in a Hungarian refugee camp.
  • Karchy occasionally lies to his father.
  • Karchy sneaks into a confessional and acts like the priest. The school bully then comes in and tells him that he hates his father and wants to kill him because he can't stand seeing him hit his mother.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • Karchy's behavior and how at the end he appears to take the higher moral ground, but still lies to protect Magic (and gets away without retribution).
  • Lying and using that to impress others or make yourself look like you're someone you're not.
  • Overcoming speech impediments or accents, and dealing with the teasing from others that may occur (Karchy has a slight Hungarian accent that prevents him from correctly pronouncing the word "the").
  • VIOLENCE
  • A school bully breaks Karchy's radio. Karchy then throws a punch at that student who in turn hits and kicks him several times.
  • Karchy smashes many eggs and throws baskets around in a market after learning that Diney is engaged although she just slept with him.



  • Reviewed October 6, 1997

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