Telling Lies In America

1997, Movie, PG-13, 101 mins


Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' roll! This tidy, heartfelt sleeper from screenwriter Joe Eszterhas and director Guy Ferland is loosely based on Eszterhas's own adolescence as a rock-loving Hungarian immigrant in 1960s Cleveland. Karchy Jonas (Brad Renfro) is an unpopular 17-year-old Catholic high-school kid with a dream: to enter radio station WHK's High School Hall of Fame -- essentially a popularity contest run by smooth-talking hipster disc jockey Billy Magic (Kevin Bacon). Karchy cheats his way in, badly forging a stack of ballots while steadfastly denying any wrongdoing, but Magic admires the kid's moxie and offers him a job helping out around the station. Magic seems to be everything Karchy wants to become -- a rich American ladykiller who doesn't take nothin' from nobody -- but Karchy is in for a very rude awakening when Magic's slick facade begins to crack and Karchy finds out just what lies on the other side of the American dream. Eszterhas, best known for his pricey scripts for such lurid psycho-sex romps as BASIC INSTINCT, JADE and SHOWGIRLS, seems an unlikely source for this endearing coming-of-age tale made bittersweet by a bracing dose of cynicism. Eszterhas not only manages to pull it off, but also makes some pointed observations about what America can mean to a teenage refugee. With some terrific acting from Bacon, Renfro and Maximillian Schell (as Karchy's father) and a stylish period feel, the film also boasts a boffo soundtrack full of finger-poppin' period tunes and one standout original ("Medium Rare"), penned by Bacon himself. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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