Telling Lies in America

Telling Lies in America Kevin Bacon’s passionate, sharply drawn portrayal of Billy Magic, a slick, finger-snapping, payola-pocketing disc jockey in early 1960s Cleveland, is the best thing about this conventional but heartfelt semiautobiographical coming-of-age story, written by Joe Eszterhas — who knew he was such a big softie? — and directed with an eye for nostalgia by Guy Ferland (The Babysitter). Unfortunately, it’s not Billy Magic’s story we’re here to ponder. The stage belongs to Eszterhas stand-in Karchy Jonas (The Client’s Brad Renfro, working stiffly), an ostracized Hungarian-born teenager trying to find a place for himself in rock & roll America, who, displaying a survivor’s instinct for subterfuge and self-invention, is taken on by Billy as a malleable gofer. Everything he knows about America, Eszterhas seems to be saying, he learned from a compromised mentor who dazzled and betrayed him. Yet Karchy himself is never more than a sketch of a young man, his path to American-ness far less interesting than Billy’s reckless, post-Quiz Show-era road to ruin. Teaching young Karchy about love, meanwhile, is Calista Flockhart (TV’s Ally McBeal) as a nice girl who expects better of her beaux than the bluster of a raw-boned immigrant. C+

Telling Lies in America
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