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(1998) (John Hurt, Jason Priestley) (PG-13)

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Drama/Comedy: An older, esteemed author finds himself obsessed with the lead male actor, and teen heartthrob, of a series of "B" movies.
Giles De'Ath (JOHN HURT) is a dignified, but little known British author who prides himself on not having kept up with the latest technological advances. Accidentally locking himself out of his home, he goes to the local cinema to see the latest adaption of an E.M. Forster novel. Having never been to a multiplex, however, he ends up in the wrong theater and watches "Hotpants College II," a decidedly adolescent, "B" movie.

About to walk out, his eye catches sight of Ronnie Bostock (JASON PRISTLEY), one of the young lead actors. Immediately smitten, Giles obsessively begins collecting any information he can find on Ronnie, and tells his housekeeper, Mrs. Barker (SHEILA HANCOCK) not to clean his room anymore, for that's where he keeps his "Bostokian" collection. Having purchased a VCR and TV to watch Ronnie's other films, Giles takes the next step and heads for Long Island where he's learned that Ronnie lives.

There he meets Ronnie's girlfriend and model, Audrey (FIONA LOEWI), and slyly talks his way into quickly become her new friend. Of course he eventually meets Ronnie who mistakenly takes Giles' romantic obsession with him for simply being an older, wiser man's advice on how to succeed in Hollywood. As their brief friendship grows, it's only a matter of time before Giles must tell the truth.

Probably only if they're fans of Jason Priestley (of TV's "Beverly Hills 90210").
For brief strong language, thematic elements and some sexual content.
  • JOHN HURT plays an austere, heaving smoking British novelist who inexplicably becomes romantically obsessed with an American "B" movie actor and then eventually proceeds to stalk him -- in a nonthreatening way -- until he finally meets the object of his obsession.
  • JASON PRIESTLEY plays a somewhat dimwitted "B" movie actor whose only apparent bad traits are appearing in some bad movies and living with his girlfriend.


    OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
    Although partially billed as a comedy, "Love & Death On Long Island" is more akin to a stalker film -- albeit one without any suspense or mayhem. Featuring a tremendous performance by actor John Hurt, your appreciation of the film will greatly depend on whether you buy into the story's main plot device of an older, austere man falling for a younger, dimwitted actor.

    Based on Gilbert Adair's original novel (that contained no inter-character dialogue -- just a first person narrative), novice writer/director Richard Kwietniowski has had to improvise the characters' interchanges and has seemingly done a fine job with the adaption. Yet I could never get past the critical notion that Giles would fall for Ronnie. Beyond the obvious love at first sight aspect, nothing is present here to indicate why a stodgy, dignified, and definitely cerebral author would a) sit through more than a minute of "Hotpants College II" and b) then become star-struck and act like a giggling school girl over a heartthrob, "B" movie actor.

    That has nothing to do with the fact that an older, widowed man could develop a love for a younger, attractive man -- it has happened before, after all -- but it just seems unlikely that this particular older man would fall for this particular younger actor. If anything but a chance vision in a darkened movie theater had been used as the catalyst, that might be another thing, but I just never bought into the initial motivation and plot development.

    Sure, Priestley's character has a pretty face which is why thousands of young girls absolutely adore him. That I can understand, but the same doesn't hold true for Hurt's character. I can also accept that the film is supposed to be a comedy (from the production notes) and that it has a few twinges of dry, witty humor. While that could have been better used to explain the sudden love and then near psychotic obsession that follows, it never fully pans out.

    If Kwietniowski had played his comic hand more forcefully, the concept would be easier to swallow. Additionally, had Hurt's character been more realistically inclined to have this happen to him, I might have better accepted the results. Instead, it seems more of a plot device that's trying to be clever, instead of what would naturally follow from real character development and motivation.

    That said, John Hurt (a two time Oscar nominee for "Midnight Express" and "The Elephant Man") delivers a great performance as an older man who awakens to a new romantic and technological world he had previously shuttered from his life. Essentially playing a fish out of water character, Giles initially responds to a question about whether he uses a word processor. He indignantly replies, "I'm a writer. I write. I don't process words." Yet he slowly but surely begins to explore the "new" technological world around him and that's when the movie really works.

    It's quite enjoyable watching the befuddled confusion crossing Hurt's face as he tries to understand these new gizmos and contraptions. Hurt also does a decent job portraying a man confused and torn between what he thinks is proper and logical, and that which comes across as ridiculous and a source of embarrassment to him. Even so, that factor could, and probably should, have been played more to the extreme since his character had been so far removed from reality in his "ivory tower" existence.

    Priestley (of TV's "Beverly Hills 90210") should be commended for being completely game at playing upon his own status as a teen heartthrob. Assuming the role of the somewhat dimwitted "B" movie actor, Priestley comes close to self-caricature, and as he plays this character with such ease, you begin to wonder if he's really a good actor, or if perhaps this is a role closer to reality than he'd wish to accept. You'll also question whether director Kwietniowski is actually making fun of Priestley the actor, of simply the character that he plays.

    He's definitely trying to poke fun at the "Porkys" type movies Priestley's character appears in, and gives them titles such as "Skidmarks" and "Tex-Mex." Even so, he doesn't take the lambasting as far as he should have -- those types of movies are so ripe for the picking -- and instead only delivers some weak jabs at them (although one review in the movie describes one of the films as a "puerile romp without one single redeeming feature").

    The movie does lose most of its steam once Giles finally meets Ronnie and tries to persuade him to reach for higher art and later to return to Europe with him. Beyond a few initial giddy moments, Giles obsessive behavior loses its edge and the story turns into a standard unattainable love story and the few, dry comedic qualities it had going for it evaporate. Even so, Ronnie is so boring beyond his appearance that you'd think Giles would see the light and head back across the "pond" to more familiar settings, shaking his head in disbelief that he acted so foolishly. That's the film's other big problem -- you simply can't understand why Giles continues upon his "quest" after discovering that there's not much more there than a pretty face.

    The movie gets a marginally passing grade from us simply for Hurt's great performance, but don't expect a great deal more from this flick. If you can get past the initial plot construction (with which we had problems), you might enjoy the dry bits of humor and the non-traditional love theme. Otherwise, you might have the same reaction to Giles' obsession with Ronnie as does his deaf neighbor. After briefly watching a few moments of Ronnie's movie on TV at Giles' insistence, she quickly changes the channel to a more exciting show about sheepdogs. If not for Hurt's performance, you might have the same inclination. We give "Love and Death On Long Island" a 5 out of 10.

    While many of the film's categories have little or no objectionable material, a few do. Profanity is heavy with 2 "f" words and some others, and we see several brief glimpses of mens' bare butts as well as hear non-related sexual sounds coming from an adjacent motel room. Then there's the obsessive/homosexual behavior that an older man displays toward a younger man that may be unsettling to some viewers. While it never culminates in anything violent or sexual, and is mildly played with a dry sense of humor, it does border on stalking. Finally, Giles smokes throughout most of the film. If you or someone in your family desires to see this film, you may want to glance over the content to determine whether it's appropriate.

  • Giles has some brandy in a glass next to him.
  • Giles and Audrey have wine.
  • Giles and Audrey have wine, while Ronnie drinks a beer.
  • In one of Ronnie's movies, another character stabs his character in the gut, and we see some blood on his shirt, as well as on the knife.
  • Some viewers may see Giles' nonthreatening, stalker/homosexual behavior toward Ronnie as having both.
  • Some characters in one of Ronnie's movies videotape some women getting undressed (we see the women in their bras).
  • Giles smokes in a cab despite there being a "thank you for not smoking" sign.
  • In one of Ronnie's movies, some guys "moon" (bare butts) a group of girls.
  • Giles apparently steals some magazines (one being a teen fan issue) from a newsstand because he's too embarrassed to buy it.
  • None.
  • Knife: Used in one of Ronnie's movies by another character to stab Ronnie's character.
  • Phrases: "Jerk off" (adjective), "Shut up," "Buggered," "Idiot," and "Screw you."
  • Giles stalks Ronnie (in a nonthreatening way).
  • In one of Ronnie's movies, some guys "moon" (bare butts) a group of girls.
  • None.
  • None.
  • None.
  • At least 2 "f" words, 5 "s" words, 2 hells, 1 damn, and 2 uses each of "God," "Jesus" and "Dear God," and 1 use each of "Christ" and "Good Lord" as exclamations.
  • Some characters in one of Ronnie's movies videotape some women getting undressed (we see the women in their bras).
  • In one of Ronnie's movies, some guys "moon" (bare butts) a group of girls.
  • In one of Ronnie's movies, other guys have put stuff into their underwear to give themselves big bulges. In the background, we see the bare butts of several other guys who are taking showers.
  • Giles draws some sketches of nude men that show something of a bulge in the crotch area.
  • Giles hears sexual sounds (moaning and bed thumping) coming from the motel room next to his.
  • Giles smokes throughout the film.
  • A few other minor characters also smoke (cigarettes or cigars).
  • Giles briefly mentions his wife dying some time ago.
  • Obsessions and stalking.
  • In one of Ronnie's movies, a guy throws a punch at him.
  • In another of Ronnie's movies, a character stabs Ronnie's character (not very realistically) with a knife, resulting in his melodramatic death.

  • Reviewed March 6, 1998

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