17 September 2009 | grmagne
An artistic look at the late 1960s
LESLIE, MY NAME IS EVIL largely focuses on the trial of Leslie Van Houten, a member of the infamous Manson Family, and a young male juror, Perry, who is seduced by her eyes and smile and feels sympathy for her plight. There are two worlds explored here: that of the typical middle-class conservative family of the 1960s and the underworld of Charles Manson and his cult followers. We watch Leslie being seduced into a cult of violence in one back-story while the other has Perry struggling with his desire to stay out of the Vietnam War against the wishes of his very overbearing and patriotic father. Perry then meets Dorothy, an attractive "All-American" Christian girl, who wants to marry him one day but also believes that Perry should serve his country in war first. The last half of the movie shows Perry, now a juror (better than going to Vietnam!), struggling about whether Leslie should be sentenced to death. Naturally, Perry's family expect him to sentence her to death before the trial has even begun. It's a hyper-artistic movie, for example the defendants sometimes show up to court dressed very provocatively, rather than in jumpsuits, nearly everyone behaves inappropriately and there is an enormous PATTON-style U.S. flag on the back wall during the trial. There are also many montages throughout the film that re-create the look & feel of the 1960s.
This film may offend some viewers for different reasons. First of all, the film obviously questions how conservative Americans can demonize those on trial for murder while simultaneously supporting an unpopular war, even after the My Lai massacre. This exploration of acceptable versus unacceptable violence is the whole point of the film. Secondly, it paints some of Manson's followers in a sympathetic light. I didn't get the impression that that was the director's intention, but it will probably receive some criticism if it ever gets wide distribution.
Leslie, My Name is Evil is an extremely stylish film with lots of montages, satire and quirky dark humour. There are very strong physical resemblances between all of the actors and the real people they portray, so the production team obviously searched hard for their cast; the quality of acting was overall quite good. The style and theme reminded me slightly of NATURAL BORN KILLERS, but obviously the subject matter is radically different. Unfortunately, this film won't get any of the marketing hype that an Oliver Stone movie would receive and these types of Canadian films always struggle at the box office. I really enjoyed this movie and plan to watch it a second time someday.