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Rental Unit: "The United States of Leland"

The heat of the moment.

Among those who don't buy that for a second are two father figures, one a teacher at the center (Don Cheadle) and the other Leland's actual estranged father (Kevin Spacey). Spacey's absentee dad is a famous author, and the other guy is an aspiring writer who admires him. Both smell a good book in Leland, and most of this writerly story examines the questionable motives operating within this triangle.

Containing subtle reflections on personal grief, the tactless media and the nature of institutions of reform, "Leland" could have been the greatest Lifetime movie of all time. Though it rises to the upper echelon, it can't rise above the realm of melodrama. Not with a story about a sensitive kid who murders because society is all screwed up. And not with scenes of his mother kneeling by his bed in prayer or the act of revenge that arrives as predictably as the credits.

Spacey is wasted in this minor film, but Gosling really keeps us enthralled. Watching anger, fear, confidence and vulnerability break across his face, sometimes almost simultaneously, we can only hope he soon gets the major role that brings him to the world. — Wayne Melton

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