Love and Death on Long Island Movie Review

Blink and you missed this little gem, the story of an aging, British Luddite writer named De'Ath (as in the title of the film, John Hurt) who goes to America to seek his newfound muse -- a B-movie actor named Ronnie Bostock (Jason Priestley) who stars in films like Hotpants College II. Bizarre and touching, funny and poignant, this is one horribly titled film that really ought to be seen.

Hurt, as usual, pulls out all the stops on his vaguely pathetic, vaguely lovable role -- a stuffy gent who becomes inexplicably obsessed. The beginning of the film traces De'Ath's introduction into modern life, necessities generated so he can expose himself to Ronnie's work via VHS. He freeze-frames a locker room scene, listens intently for cheeseball lines like, "You're nothing but a skid mark on the underpants of life!" Finally he opts to move to Long Island in the hopes of encountering Ronnie face to face (along the way he rather humorously learns the difficulties of trying to get around suburban America by foot).

Eventually, De'Ath and Ronnie do meet, and his hopes for -- for what, fulfillment? friendship? a love affair? -- never quite come to be. Astute observers will recognize a lot of Gods and Monsters in this story, an equally good movie that nonetheless had more of a backbone to it.

Love & Death is also nearly singlehandedly responsible for reviving the career of Priestley, long in the doldrums. It subtly mocks his earlier career while hinting at better things to come. Priestley has yet to really fulfill that promise (though check out Coldblooded for more against-type work), but regardless of that, Love & Death stands well on its own as a quaint and touching little piece of celluloid.


Love and Death on Long Island Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: PG-13, 1998


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