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It isn't easy when everything you've built your life on turns out to be a lie.

In the made-for-television "Rising Son," premiering Monday at 6 p.m. on TNT, Gus Robinson (Brian Dennehy) finds out that his life is built on a series on things he'd like believe are true, but aren't.He'd like to believe his dreams for his two sons - that one should become a successful lawyer and the other a successful doctor - are the same as their dreams for themselves.

He'd like to believe that large corporations care about their workers. That his loyalty to his employer is reciprocated.

He'd like to believe that no matter what happens, he'll be able to care for his family and shield them from the problems of the world.

"This role is classic in its generational conflicts, yet it should offer a slightly fresher point of view," Dennehy said. "Gus makes assumptions about his kids that, along with everything else that goes wrong with his life, turn out to be untrue."

But Gus' world falls apart in "Rising Son." His 19-year-old son, Charlie (Matt Damon), quits his pre-med program and isn't sure he even wants to return to college at all.

Gus is the production manager at an auto parts factory in Pennsylvania that was recently sold to a large corporation - a corporation that decides to close down the plant.

He's a man in his 50s who can't find a job, won't understand his son's wishes and can't or won't accept his situation.

" `Rising Son' functions on two levels," said executive producer David Manson. "The first is the family drama, where father and son must find out about themselves.

"The second is their unwillingness to address their emotions, which reflects on a country and society that is unwilling to examine some painful truths about itself."

Gus and Charlie are both set adrift in life. Neither father nor son knows what to do next, and neither reaches out to the other.

Gus feels he has to keep up the facade, promising Charlie everything will continue to be just fine. Charlie is afraidRISING

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to disappoint his father and for months he doesn't even tell Gus he's dropped out of school.

Dennehy does a fine job as a man who often just isn't likeable. Oh, his motives are pure - he just wants the best for his family and his boys, in particular - but his methods are sometimes reprehensible.

He's an autocrat in the home, unwilling to listen to his wife or his sons. At the same time, he's well-liked and well-respected in the community, and sees himself as a self-sacrificing father who's given his all for his family.

"He was believable as a man who had risen up through the ranks to become successful and to symbolize the American dream from the working-class side," Manson said. "I also felt that it was important for the audience to have an ambivalent response to Gus, and I felt Brian could convey both those extremes."

Damon is also effective as Charlie. He doesn't make the son a rebel without a cause, but just a rather typical 19-year-old who doesn't quite know what he wants out of life - but knows that it's not what his father wants for him.

And in an almost too-brief role, Piper Laurie shines as Martha, Gus' wife. She doesn't even have much to say in most of her scenes - Martha is the supportive wife at Gus' side. But Martha is the one who can see reality even while Gus is blind to it.

The movie is set in 1981, just as Ronald Reagan was entering the White House. It's a tough view of early-'80s in the declining industrial Northeast.

Reagan-lovers won't like the disparaging references to the former president or his economic program, but the characters in the movie are people who've been kicked in the teeth by economy and don't have time to wait for the promised recovery.

And Gus has no love for the Japanese, either. Not only did he fight against them in the Pacific in World War II, but it's the Japanese automakers who - in his opinion - have driven his company out of business.

("Rising Son" takes on a rather different meaning in relation to the Japanese issue.)

The film is sometimes too slow moving, bogging down particularly with subplots about Charlies old and new girlfriends. But it's worth a look, espcially during this rerun time of year.

In addition to airing at 6 p.m. on Monday, "Rising Son" will also be shown at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. that same evening. Additional air dates on TNT are: Tuesday, 10 a.m.; Tuesday, 2 p.m.; Saturday, 8 p.m. and Sunday, July 29 at 2 p.m.