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Telling Lies in America

4.5 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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(Apr 25, 2000)
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Editorial Reviews

Joe Eszterhas (formulaic screenwriter of many overpaid projects, most infamously Basic Instinct and Showgirls) somewhat redeems himself with this semi-autobiographical story. His mouthpiece is Karchy Jonas (Brad Renfro), a Hungarian-born immigrant (like Eszterhas himself) growing up in Cleveland in 1960. His pop (Maximilian Schell) works hard to send Karchy to an expensive high school, where Karchy is ostracized by the rich kids and labors to find acceptance. Into town walks itinerant rock DJ Billy Magic (Kevin Bacon), the quintessence of cool with a dark charm. Magic needs a teen to run errands for him (mostly carrying payola envelopes), so he hosts a "High School Hall of Fame" contest to help him find an assistant. Karchy, who idolizes Magic, wins the contest by forging signatures of his classmates on postcards. Magic knows of Karchy's deception and is intrigues by it, as that is the kind of dishonesty he's looking for in his assistant. Karchy's lying grows into a major character trait, forcing the kid into many difficult social situations, not the least of which involves government officials investigating the slippery Magic for payola and threatening to jeopardize Karchy's family's citizenship status if he doesn't cooperate. Although no less a formula plot than other Eszterhas stuff, this one's lifted a bit by the director's personal connection to the story and by a great, charismatic performance by Kevin Bacon. Much more could be written about the connection between lying and storytelling, and fending for oneself in the mendacious jungles of Hollywood, but suffice it to say that Karchy eventually grows up to write Showgirls. --Jim Gay

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Kevin Bacon, Brad Renfro, Maximilian Schell, Calista Flockhart, Paul Dooley
  • Directors: Guy Ferland
  • Writers: Joe Eszterhas
  • Producers: Ben Myron, Brian Swardstrom, Fran Rubel Kuzui, Fred C. Caruso, Kaz Kuzui
  • Format: Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Parental Guidance Suggested
  • Studio: Fox Lorber
  • DVD Release Date: April 25, 2000
  • Run Time: 101 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 1572527188
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #126,157 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Telling Lies in America" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
When he wasn't writing trashy, empty thrillers (Basic Instinct, Jade, Sliver), Joe Eszterhaz must have been reminiscing about his childhood, modulating what would eventually become Telling Lies In America, a great, tender, beautifully rendered film. Set in the early 1960s Cleveland Ohio, it is the story of Karchy Jonas (Brad Renfro), a 17-year-old son of a Hungarian mill worker (Maximilian Schell) who had been a PHD in law in the old country. Something, Karchy never fails to mention to all the authority figures in his life. All the father wants in life is for he and his son to become naturalized citizens. Duly, Karchy goes to the expensive school the old man has obviously strained to pay for where, unpopular, he bluffs about all the things there are to bluff about. He works nights at a grocery store where Diney (Calista Flockhart) also works in a pained saddened silence. He comes on to her with his obvious bluffs, the little lies that are so obvious to the worldly Diney that she pities him, or is amused by him. At night he comes home to the little house he shares with his father, looks in the mirror and desperately tries to pronounce "the" which without exception always seems to come out "da".
Its fair to say that Telling Lies In America has its fair share of cliches. Those little cornets every coming of age film has to play. You have your hypocritical teacher/priest, your unattainable female Diney, her overbearing suitor Henry (Luke Wilson) and most importantly, Billy Magic (Kevin Bacon). Magic is one of those characters most filmgoers could draw from memory; the slicked back hair, the envy inducing array of lady-friends, babbling on his radio show in his all important "slanguage" while he offers his listeners some "ear conditioning" on a particularly hot day. Karchy is in awe of him.
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Format: DVD
from a surprising source! Joe Esterhaz, not a particular favorite of mine, shines in the telling of his autobiographical "coming of age" story as a teenage immigrant in the early 60's. Much has been made of the immigrant experience in the earlier part of the century, but this film gives us insight into what it was like for Europeans to be transported to America's "golden age".
Maximillian Schell is back on the screen, and welcome as the father of Esterhaz' alter-ego, Karchy Jonas. He is a bit puzzling until you learn that he was a highly educated man in his native Hungary, forced into menial labor in his new country of choice. He has instilled his belief in the power of being an American citizen in his son, Karchy, played by Brad Renfro. Renfro is believable and gives a delicious naivete to the role of Karchy, both in his words and deeds. His relationship to an older woman, Diney (Calista Flockhart looking real, not just cute) makes sense when you see how much she yearns for his honesty and his sense of wonder. Despite a high ethical standard set by his father, Karchy is a noted fabricator of fibs. Everyone who hears his stock line "Lots of times", knows he is lying.
Enter Kevin Bacon, the perfect Svengali for a boy looking to become a man in the "coolest" way possible. Bacon is a hot disc jockey, whose personal code of honor is questionable. There is no question that this is one of his strongest performances ever. From body language to his Texas twang, his regret at how his life turned out (from a brief glimpse he shares late in the movie) makes him a standout playing an early 60's "lounge lizard". Bacon has a fine portfolio of work, but this is his ultimate role.
Music and set are perfect for this nostalgic look back to the 60's. A great film, underappreciated by many.
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Format: VHS Tape
This is a story of a teenage immigrant who is an outcast is his private school. He receives no encouragement from his headmster, his father or, at first, from the girl he has a crush on. He is told that he is worthless and is tormented by his schoolmates. He lies to get a job with the local disk jockey whom he comes to idolize. Unfortunately, the disk jockey needs the kid to take pay-offs from record agents. But, for the first time, the kid receives encouragement from his mentor and is told, "You can do anything you put your mind to". Kevin Bacon is superb as the disk jockey. The fact that he is a musician as well as a fine actor shows in every move of his body as he listens to music and introduces it to his followers. Note that the song, "Medium Rare" was written by Kevin Bacon. Brad Renfro is also excellent as the kid. Buy this movie and you will find yourself wanting to see it over and over again. This is a movie for all ages. I'm a grandmother of teen agers.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I saw this movie years ago. This is about a DJ (Kevin Bacon) that comes to Cleveland, Ohio in the early 1960's. When he gets this job at the radio station, one of the things he ask for is for a young boy. He got told to go ahead. So he picks this one 17 year old teen that is very impressionable and doesn't know anything about bribes. That is what he got hired for. This young teen goes to a Catholic private school for boys. He gets in trouble in school left and right. He even gets suspended from school. He didn't know about these bribes until his friend told him. His friend has a band and they played for Kevin Bacon. After they played at this concert, his friend told him about the money. The young boy confronted Kevin Bacon only to fine the Cleveland Police talking to Kevin Bacon about these bribes. He denied and stated that they couldn't do anything to the teen because he wasn't an adult. Back then you had to be 21 to be classified as an adult. So Kevin Bacon told that this is how it is. He did end up tearing up the contact up and made up a new one for his friend. The young teen decides to not work for him and wants a job that is on the up and up. I loved this movie for one thing it took place in my home town Cleveland and its just good. I wasn't bored with it at all.
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