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Telling Lies in America (1997)

PG-13 | | Drama, Music | 15 October 1997 (USA)
Karchy (Brad Renfro) is a boy in school who has moved from Hungary to America in the 1960s. He is struggling in school and trying to adjust to America's culture. He then hears about a radio... See full summary »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Billy Magic
Karchy 'Chucky' Jonas
Dr. Istvan Jonas
Father Norton
Kevin Boyle
Damen Fletcher ...
Amos 'Blood Smith'
Jerry Swindall ...
Andy 'Croak' Stas
James Kisicki ...
Cecil Simms
J.J. Horna ...
The Blind Kid
Ben Saypol ...
Timmy Morelli
Sgt. Disapri


Karchy (Brad Renfro) is a boy in school who has moved from Hungary to America in the 1960s. He is struggling in school and trying to adjust to America's culture. He then hears about a radio DJ, Billy Magic (Kevin Bacon), who holds a contest for a Student Hall of Fame every week. When Karchy finally wins after several weeks, he spends more time with Billy Magic...a man with money, girls, and glam. Karchy thinks that, by spending time with Magic, he can become "cool". He then starts telling lies, to make himself seem greater than he really is. But when his lies begin hurting the people he cares about, he realizes that it isn't worth telling lies if it affects your friends. Afterwards, he learns to accept himself for the person he is, and gives up lying. And as for Billy Magic, it turns out that he pays his price for all the lies that he has told as well.... Written by <Aya704@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Dress sharp. Drive fast. Look cool. Laugh last. See more »


Drama | Music

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for sex related situations | See all certifications »




Release Date:

15 October 1997 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Magic Man  »

Filming Locations:

Box Office


$4,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$11,470 (USA) (19 October 1997)


$252,318 (USA) (16 November 1997)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


According to Joe Eszterhas in his book "Hollywood Animal", he wrote the script for this film in the early eighties and spent years trying to sell it. Then his wife read it and suggested that he should increase the role of Karchy's father, who was "too much in the background". Eszterhas followed her advice and re-wrote the script, changing the original title "Magic Man" to "Telling Lies in America", so it would look a brand new script. Director Guy Ferland eventually read it and committed to do it as he was willing to do a 'coming of age' film. See more »


About two-thirds through the movie, when Karchy picks his girlfriend up at the store after (her) work, they walk down a handicap wheelchair ramp which didn't exist in the 1960's. See more »


Karchy Jonas: [sing while combing his hair] Hey, hey, what do you say... Karchy Jonas is coming your way...
Karchy Jonas: ...How are you darlin'?
See more »


Honest I Do
Performed by Jimmy Reed
Written by Jimmy Reed, Ewart Abner
Courtesy of Vee Jay Records/ All Nations Music
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User Reviews

Heartfelt little drama.
3 July 2016 | by (Canada) – See all my reviews

"Telling Lies in America" is an extremely appealing, and convincing, tale from veteran screenwriter Joe Eszterhas that one has to assume is at least somewhat autobiographical. It tells the tale of Karchy Jonas (Brad Renfro), a Hungarian teenager who's moved with his doctor father Istvan (Maximilian Schell) to Cleveland. Taking place in 1961, before Beatlemania had become a cultural phenomenon in North America, it shows us the seedier aspects of the music and radio businesses as Karchy is taken under the wing of an ultra slick, charismatic DJ named Billy Magic, played to the hilt by a wonderful Kevin Bacon.

This is a very fine coming of age story in which a naive youth learns some hard realities about the world. Sometimes, people may seem to be your friend, but they'll really be just using you. This is also an interesting look at the immigrant experience in the U.S. of A. at a particular point in time. And, as guided by director Guy Ferland ("The Babysitter" '95), it does reasonably recreate the sights and sounds of Cleveland, when rock and soul music were really taking off. The soundtrack is an eclectic mix of golden oldies, and is supplemented by a plaintive if rather manipulative score by Nicholas Pike.

Bacon and Renfro are both excellent in the pivotal roles. Schell, Calista Flockhart as Karchy's co-worker (with whom he tries to build a romantic relationship), Paul Dooley as a priest at Karchy's school, Damen Fletcher as aspiring music star Amos, Jerry Swindall as Karchy's friend Croak, and Jonathan Rhys Meyers as a bullying classmate, all offer very effective support. Luke Wilson doesn't have a particularly interesting role, as he plays Karchy's humorless employer.

"Telling Lies in America" may earn its emotions a little more honestly if it didn't lean so heavily on that music score, but overall it's still potent and engaging.

Eight out of 10.

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