It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
A creaky British writer, who has lived for decades in a cocoon of his books and his musings, locks himself out of the house one day in the rain. He takes refuge in a nearby movie theater, choosing a film based on a novel by Forster. After a time, he murmurs, “This isn't E.M. Forster!” And he begins to collect his coat and hat so he can leave.
Indeed it is not Forster. The film is “Hotpants College II,” about the high jinks of a crowd of randy undergraduates. But as the writer, named Giles De'Ath, rises to his feet, he sees an image that causes him to pause. The camera slowly zooms in on his face, illuminated by the flickering light reflected from the screen, as he stands transfixed by the sight of a young actor named Ronnie Bostock.
It is this moment of rapture that gives “Love and Death on Long Island” its sly comic enchantment. Giles De'Ath, played by John Hurt as a man long settled in his dry and dusty ways, has fallen in love with a Hollywood teen idol, and his pursuit of this ideal leads him stumbling into the 20th century. He finds that films can be rented, and he goes to a video store to obtain two other Ronnie Bostock titles, “Tex Mex” and “Skidmarks.” Dressed like an actor playing T. S. Eliot, discussing the titles with the clerk as if he were speaking to a librarian in the British Museum, he rents the tapes and brings them home, only to find that he needs a VCR. He purchases the VCR and has it delivered to his book-lined study, where the delivery man gently explains why he also will require a television set.
At last, banishing his housekeeper from his study, Giles settles down into a long contemplation of the life and work of Ronnie Bostock. He even obtains teenage fan magazines (the cover of one calls Bostock “snoggable!”), and cuts out Ronnie's photos to paste them in a scrap book, which in his elaborate cursive script he labels Bostockiana. He sneaks out to dispose of the magazines as if they were pornography and daydreams of a TV quiz show on which he would know all the answers to trivia questions about Ronnie (Favorite author: Stephen King. Favorite musician: Axl Rose).