What You Need To Know:
The good directing and sometimes genial humor about the culture clash between a genteel upper class British man of letters, and a brash American teen idol does not overcome the movie’s aberrant premise. The problem is, it is a homosexual love story. This is not a normal love story involving a man and a woman, even an older man and a younger woman. The homosexual nature of the story makes it perverse and repulsive to moral individuals.
(HoHo, Pa, R, L, M) Homosexual worldview of an older English man’s infatuation with a young American teenage idol; 6 mild obscenities; no violence; no sex; no nudity; and, depicted anti-smoking gesture.
The best thing about LOVE AND DEATH ON LONG ISLAND is that it benefits from the talents of two good actors: genteel veteran English actor John Hurt, perhaps most notable for his portrayal of crazed Roman Emperor Caligula in the BBC production of I, CLAUDIUS in the late 1970’s and BEVERLY HILLS 90210 actor Jason Priestly. Priestly adds to the movie’s appeal, as he puts in a credible performance (due to his real-life experience no doubt) as American teenage heart-throb Ronnie Bostock, the unlikely target of Hurt’s homosexual romantic fantasies.
Giles De’Ath (John Hurt) an older, genteel widower and British man of letters, hand-writes prose on embossed stationery in his compact English apartment, goes out to run errands and to meet his agent for luncheons in fancy restaurants. He returns to receive tea at 4 p.m., served by his genteel British landlady. He leads a completely regimented, reclusive life, epitomized by his refusing speaking engagements which his agent wants to book for him. When by chance, he sees an attractive young American man’s face on a movie poster, his whole life changes. At a subsequent luncheon, he tells his agent that he wants to fall in love at his old age. The agent suggests he travel. His agent’s suggestion precipitates his genial voyage down the social scale in pursuit of his fantasy man to a working class motel on New York’s Long Island, where he encounters all sorts of culture differences that make for good comedy.
Among other unlikely occurrences, Giles meets a crass Long Island diner owner, Irving Buckmuller (Maury Chaykin in a great but short performance), who takes a friendly interest in his fish-out-of-water customer, who is no more accustomed to eating greasy hamburgers and French fries than he is to playing hacky-sack with the high schoolers.
Regrettably, this character’s backstory is completely missing. Why, for example, does this former heterosexual, whose deceased wife’s picture stands on his desk, suddenly fall in love with a young man? Even if he does fall in love with a physically appealing young man, how does he think his sedentary lifestyle would complement the young man’s, who plays hard baseball with the guys? Why does he suppose that their two widely disparate lifestyles would have anything in common?
As a love story, LOVE AND DEATH ON LONG ISLAND is harmless enough, even humorous. It is well acted and well directed. First-time Director Richard Kwietniowski’s writing and directing is crisp, and effective, moving the story along at a clip. There is no depicted sex, few obscenities and no nudity. An older, British man falls in love with a younger American person. It happens. The problem is, it is a homosexual love story, which immediately changes the moral cast of the movie. This is not a normal love story involving a man and a woman, even an older man and a younger woman. The homosexual nature of the story makes it perverse and repulsive to moral individuals, who would perhaps have applauded the movie were it to deal with heterosexual fantasy love.
“A film can change the way people think, and that is why I write, and you act,” says Giles to Ronnie at the climactic moment when he proposes love to him in a Long Island restaurant. Indeed. A film can change the way people think. The current deluge of homosexual-oriented films may change the way viewers think about this lifestyle, which violates God-given laws. It is all the more unfortunate that Director Kwietniowski chose to squander his considerable talents on a perverse storyline which will probably consign his film to obscure art houses, when his filmmaking is technically laudable.