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May 24, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT

Long Island’s Babylon-by-the-sea rep gets a good burnishing in first-time director Michael Cuesta’s coming-of-age tale. Pedophilia, incest, grand larceny, and corporate malfeasance surround 15-year-old Howie Blitzer (Paul Dano), who, following his mother’s death in a traffic accident on the film’s eponymous expressway, embarks on a shambling journey of self-discovery complicated by the creepily ambiguous advances of an eccentric retired Marine (the excellent Brian Cox). Though Cuesta mounts an admirable contribution to the suburban-dystopia genre, Todd Solondz (”Happiness”) doesn’t have anything to worry about yet.

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108 minutes
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