Love and Death on Long Island - * *

An obsessive stalker seems an unlikely comedic hero, but the recent comedy Love and Death on Long Island actually manages to pull it off, to a little extent. Though it gets awkward at times, the film is mildly amusing.

Giles De’Ath (John Hurt) is a reclusive London author who has eschewed most modern conveniences in favor of a simpler life. However, a disruptive set of circumstances sets Giles off to watch the latest E.M. Forster film when he stumbles upon a trashy teen flick, Hotpants College II. Dismayed at first by his mistake, Giles is soon transfixed by the actor in one of the film’s smaller roles: teen heartthrob Ronnie Bostock (Jason Priestley).

At first it seems just a passing fancy, but soon Giles’ desire to know all things Bostock turns into an obsession. He sets out for Long Island, where he begins to stalk (though with good intentions) the teen idol and his supermodel fiancee, Audrey (Fiona Loewi).

John Hurt gives a delightful performance of a confused man faced with an inexplicable obsession. He has two wellsprings of humor: his unfamiliarity with the modern conveniences of life, as well as the convolutions he must go through to self-justify his crush (watching him expound on the artistic merit of such Bostock classics as Tex-Mex and Skidmarks is a hoot).

For his part, Jason Priestley gives a richer performance than you expect, even though he’s playing a vapid teen idol with little talent beyond his looks. His Ronnie Bostock is a limited actor who doesn’t quite understand his limitations, and yearns for more. Priestley adds subtlety to a role which could easily have been a simple stereotype.

The script, written by director Richard Kwietniowski, is at its best when it is light and comical. But, given the subject of a film like this, you know it can’t end well. Given that, Love and Death on Long Island pulls out a better ending than you might expect, but it is still an uncomfortable one.

But, though it has its share of faults, there are several amusing moments throughout the film. It’s probably not worth hunting down in it’s limited release theater, but as a second-choice video rental, this one might fit the bill.

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