Little Children Reviews
The film starts off really cooking with some sharp and rather witty satire, but then eventually devolves into overwrought melodrama that runs overlong and doesn't really tell me me anything I didn't really already know. Plus, the movie makes it seem like all suburbanites suffer like these characters do, and that's just not the case at all.
I did enjoy the film a fair amount though, that much is certain. I'm mixed about the use of narration, especially since it mostly tells instead of showing, which gets to me. Also, I think the subplot about the sex offender could have been better incorporated into the story, especially since it is some of the best material here, with Jackie Earle Haley giving a brilliant performance in a really tough and unenviable role.
The stuff concerning adultery and midlife crisis is somewhat on the nose and reeks of rehahing of better movies, but it is still decently well played, and no one here really gives a bad performance, although Connelly could have been used more, and it did sorta seem like the actors were fishing for Oscars at times.
Still, the film looks great, the music's not bad, and I wasn't really as bored as I could have been.
The lives of two lovelorn spouses from separate marriages, a registered sex offender, and a disgraced ex-police officer intersect as they struggle to resist their vulnerabilities and temptations.
Little Children is one of the finest films of the past decade, a film that is intensely intelligent in concept, in writing, in acting, and in production values. It is rare to find a film so right in every aspect, dealing with aspects of living we'd all rather overlook while at the same time recognizing bits and pieces of ourselves and of those around us in manner that contributes to the frightening credibility of the story.
Todd Field, so highly respected for his previous film 'In the Bedroom', directs the story from the novel by Tom Perrotta with whom he wrote the screenplay. It deals with the way children perceive the world, even when those children are of adult age. The story is told to us by a narrator who unwinds the events like a channeler, showing how each of these disparate people come to realize that they are each acting with retarded, regressive emotional skills usually found only in children. And in the end of the story each has been forced to mature - or have they? The entire cast is brilliant as is the quality of direction by Field. The musical score and the hauntingly beautiful cinematography add to the pulsating rhythm of this exploration of the psyches of 21st century adults. It may be a difficult movie to watch for some, but it is a triumph of cinematic art. Highly Recommended.
I loved and didn't like how the movie made me empathize with characters that I should not have supported and the decisions that they made. I loved how uncomfortable it made me feel about certain things, like how we treat those among us who are undesirable, and how cruel we can be when we fear someone. I loved how I slowly built up sympathy for a character, and then that emotion was deftly twisted into revulsion, and finally pity. I loved how it made me wonder at how loneliness and distance can creep between a husband and wife, without them realizing it until the damage is done. This isn't a feel good movie by any means, but neither is it really depressing. It's a mixture of the good and the bad things in life.
It's always nice to get more from a movie than you expected. I was expecting to see a simple drama about the suburban family, starring my favorite actress. Instead, I found a story with all the richness of a good novel. It was even narrated, which contributed even more to the novel-like experience. If you have the patience to slowly build toward the pay-off of a well told story, and an affinity for characters that struggle with very human flaws, then Little Children is a movie that you must see.
The best way to describe this story is that it's a look at a community and the way they live their life, with situations changing due to the release of a sex offender into said community.
To anyone who has seen this film and wonders why the children the title speaks of seem to be props and not characters in their right, I propose this theory: having not read the book, I can only go by what the film offers. Perhaps the little children of the title are the main and supporting characters. We have Sarah Pierce (Kate Winslet, who just goes from strength to strength, and makes us forget about that movie with the sinking boat which was overrated), a housewife frustrated with her husband and who has little love for her own child; Brad Adamson (Patrick Wilson, who I really have to keep looking for updates on whatever he's working on as he has a presence that enhances a film), a househusband who can't find the motivation to take the bar exam again, preferring to watch skateboarders and find comfort in the arms of Sarah (more on that later); Larry Hedges (Noah Emmerich, who is arguably the antagonist of this film), a disgraced former cop who bullies the sex offender (Jackie Earle Haley, who is DAMN good in this role), who's just trying to live his life (again, we'll come back to him)
Along with the supporting women who play the mothers of the children seen in the playground/pool scenes, most of the main characters seem to regress to child-like ideas in order to keep themselves going. Some have ideas of running away with their lovers, some bully and harass citizens and others act like hypocrites and suggest their way of life is better.
Of course, I could just be over-analyzing and it's about the sex offender and the concerns over the children. Or both.
Normally, I am against the idea of people cheating on their loved ones. You can use any excuse you want, be it not being treated right or that your spouse is cheating on you and you're getting revenge, I don't care. You want to sleep with someone else, date someone else, you end things with the person you're seeing. This is perhaps the only film in which I actually sympathize with those doing the cheating (though this is not without precedent. BJ Hunnicutt had a one night stand on M*A*S*H but he felt terrible about it and never strayed again. Not making excuses, not defending him, but it's hard to hate BJ. It's like hating puppies, it's unthinkable)
Sarah and Brad are yearning for more out of their lives, they want to be with people who devote their time to each other. They have a connection, and their kids get along. So it seems like a match. But as we all know, things aren't always so smooth in the world of passion.
Patrick and Kate really have great chemistry together and I'd love to see them reunite for a future project.
Now let's talk about Jackie Earle Haley's character, Ronald McGorvey. Treated as the town pariah, he is oddly enough, one of the few people who's actually trying to better himself. Like I said before, no defense here, but he just wants to be left alone and wants to reintegrate back into society.
He's moved back in with his mother, and tries hard not to succumb to temptation. What he does towards the end I will not spoil, but it's ironic to me that the one person trying to change for the better is the one vilified as the monster. Jackie Earle Haley did magnificent in this role, and hopefully now that he and Patrick have been in Watchmen, his profile will improve
If there is one thing I have to put down, it's the narration. It's not bad, but I have to wonder why it's needed as the narrator seemingly has nothing to do with the story and seems to be Mr. Exposition for the thoughts and feelings of our characters. Yes, they aren't entirely obvious from the body language but why is a stranger telling us what they're thinking?
Rarely if ever do I see people talking about this film. It's been overlooked and that's just wrong. I hope more people see it, I found it quite powerful.
The narration causes fatigue and doesn't really contribute to anything important, aside from very brief keen examinations.
Jackie Earle Haley's character should have been explored deeper. He and his mother (Phyllis Sommerville) play the most interesting parts of the whole.
Although this movie has a lot of little children in it, it seems that the reference to Little Children is how the grownups are acting. The narration pissed me off too.
Interesting, I saw this movie again a year later, and this time I liked the narrator. Kate Winslet plays her part well.
1. It seeps into you and tugs hard at your sense of self and,
2. The ending is...not quite an ending. Perhaps it is even more of a beginning.
Those of you who read my reviews know that I speak not only to the storyline, but more the emotions and thoughts evoked.
Yes, I can talk about the amazing character development. I can speak to the incomparable Kate Winslet and the effective use of the narration which could have gone awry, but did not. I could speak to the amazing Jennifer Connelly and her breadth, but there is more to say and little space.
This movie speaks to that which you thought you might want, until you realize that what you want and what you need are two very different things. Sometimes they intersect and sometimes life leaves you barren. Sometimes you are fulfilled, but that feeling of being "whole" may wane in the wake of your adolescent mid-life crisis.
Sometimes you are the adult, but more often...you are the child.
Broken and bare in the face of your humanity it is time to make a choice just know...you will have to chose again, and again, and again defining yourself as your life progresses.
One of my favorite lyricists, Matt Johnson of "The The" wrote a phenomenal song that I interpret as Buddhist that sums up some of these thoughts quite well. It is called, "True Happiness This Way Lies."
"And have you ever wanted something so badly that it possessed your body and your soul through the night and through the day until you finally get it and then you realize that it wasn't what you wanted after all.
And then those selfsame sickly little thoughts now go and attach themselves to something, or somebody, new and the whole goddamn thing starts all over again.
Well, I've been crushing the symptoms but I can't locate the cause.
Could God really be so cruel?
To give us feelings that could never be fulfilled. Baby!
I've got my sights set on you.
And someday, someday, someday...you'll come my way.
But when you put your arms around me
I'll be looking over your shoulder for something new
'cause I ain't ever found peace upon the breast of a girl
I ain't ever found peace with the religions of the world
I ain't ever found peace at the bottom of a glass
sometimes it seems the more I ask for the less I receive
sometimes it seems the more I ask for the less I receive
The only true freedom is freedom from the heart's desires
and the only true happiness this way lies.
I highly recommend this film. You will not be disappointed.