No Bull About Telling Lies In America

ATN correspondent Margaret Bream covered the Toronto International Film

Festival (Sept. 4 to 13) for Addicted To Noise. Here is her last report:

Telling Lies in America is a compelling coming-of-age tale set against the early days of American rock 'n' roll radio, when the pay-for-play payola

scandal nearly killed the new music in its cradle.

The scene is Cleveland, the "Mistake by the Lake," in the early 1960s.

DJs are spinning tunes written by Jerry Lee Lewis and Berry Gordy, Jr.

and the hits of the day sung by the Platters, the Coasters, the Viscounts,

the Midnighters and the Fendermen. It's a time of high energy as a new art

form -- one that will come to grip the United States and the rest of the

world for the remainder of the century -- makes its noisy birth.

Screenwriter Joe Eszterhas (Flashdance, Basic Instinct) borrows heavily from his own memories of growing up in Cleveland as a Hungarian immigrant. In Telling Lies, the young misfit is Karchy Jonas (Brad Renfro), an ostracized high school senior who so desperately wants to join the in-crowd

that he's willing to cheat -- and lie.

Karchy is obsessed with Billy Magic (Kevin Bacon), the loud and proud

afternoon jock at Cleveland's WHK rock 'n' roll station. Magic runs what

amounts to a teen popularity contest which Karchy wins by flooding the

station with his own ballots. Invited to the station to meet Magic, Karchy is

able to serenely lie about how he won. This is great news for Magic, who is

looking for an eager youth to assist him with his show and his shady

business dealings. A youth who's willing to stretch the truth as needed.

For Karchy, Magic is as good as his name: The older man introduces the boy to

easy money, fast cars (a vintage '59 Caddy) and faster women. But the money

that fuels the ride is tainted. As the payola scandal unfolds, Karchy has

tough decisions to make. He was led to believe that in America, the streets

were paved with gold. When he finds out it's fool's gold, he's forced to grow

up quickly.

Boogie Nights, (reviewed in Sept. 13 ATN) another Toronto film festival offering, tells a similar tale of a young, gullible man corrupted by an older, debauched patron. And like Telling Lies in America, Boogie Nights is a period piece with a soundtrack that's key to the film.

But Telling Lies succeeds completely where Boogie Nights failed. It has two of the necessary ingredients for a hit: a good story and excellent

casting. (Bacon is perfect as the greasy, jive-talking DJ who doesn't

give a shit, while 15-year-old Renfro turns in a completely believable

performance as the callow youth.)

But where Boogie Nights had a second-rate soundtrack featuring songs from the wrong era (nobody was dancing to Melanie and Three Dog Night on the disco dance floor), the Telling Lies soundtrack is in the right groove. From Dion to Ike and Tina Turner, these were the songs spinning on the platters

of the day.

Telling Lies is scheduled to open in North America this fall. [Fri., Sept. 26, 1997, 9 a.m. PDT]