Friday, November 03, 2006

Little Children - Movie Review

Little Children 2006

We have a confession to make. When we went to go see the latest flick by actor / writer / director Todd Field, we were all geared up to see one of the most interesting young directors at work today with a fabulous cast to entertain us. We did. And we didn’t. The film is a solid piece of work, made near fabulous by its finely tuned cast. The movie going experience we had was abysmal. For we opted to go see it at the Angelika Film Center in NYC, famed for its usually excellent choice of non-Multiplex fare and eighty-five-dollar-cappuccinos.

We failed to realize that the projectionist was clearly an arthritic crack whore who was probably missing an arm and half their brain. For the film was off kilter the entire time despite our stern reprimands THREE FUCKING TIMES!! Thank you to the miserably ignorant staff and lame ass management at the Angelika for almost ruining a fine film with their ineptitude and ignorance. They should all be taken out back by the dumpsters and castrated and shot through the foreheads with rusty Lugers.

Moving on to the film at hand. When Todd Field made his mark with the multi-Oscar nominated “In the Bedroom, he displayed an intelligence and sense of pacing far beyond his tender experience. The good news (despite the worst intentions of the mouth breathers hired at the Angelika) is that “Little Children” is a wonderfully dark, surprisingly humorous, ultimately touching and beautifully filmed examination of the dark underbelly of Suburban America.

Kate Winslet portrays one Sarah Pierce, a young mother whose comfy existence is continually challenged by the coffee-klatsch set of Crate & Barrel housewives in her neighborhood who demonstrate little ability to parent, converse intelligently or provide comfort to an intelligent woman who has infiltrated their rank.

Into the mix arrives a househusband, portrayed by the deliciously ripe and surprisingly talented stage vet, Patrick Wilson as one Brad Adamson, whom the gaggle of playground hens have dubbed “The Prom King” for his striking Adonis physique and mysterious allure. For how often into their doldrums’ existence does a fine piece of ass come along like that! (Not very. Trust us.)

Once the two meet, after a hilarious challenge from the gab sisters, the sparks unintentionally begin to fly. For Sarah is far too smart to spend her days bitching about the neighbors and Brad is far too lost in his own haze to recognize his own allure or attempt to restart his life as an attorney. Having failed the bar exam several times, he has opted to care for his young son full time while his wife played by the Oscar winning stunner, Jennifer Connelly brings home the pussy whipping bacon.

Now, at this point we figured that we had the flick figured out. Sarah and Brad’s little playful banter would turn into a full blown affair that would destroy their marriages and alter their lives unforgivably. Well, we were correct somewhat. But added to the mix of this domestic drama, is the side story of one Ronald James McGorvey, a convicted child molester who has been freed from prison and has opted to return to his smothering mothers open arms smack in the middle of Suburbia U.S.A.

Now, while the film has all the elements of a child killer action flick, combined with the marital drama of a kitchen sink soaper, it discovers new and cinematically delightful ways to avoid the typical clichés and succeed on its own merits. Kudos to the cast and the fine budding auteur skills of Todd Field.

Kate Winslet has been charming us since her stunning debut in Peter Jackson’s excellent “Heavenly Creatures” many a moon ago. Four Oscar nominations later, she is at the peak of her craft and more than able to pull of this complex woman. We loved her slow burn, mingled with a wicked sense of comic timing that fleshed out this fascinating character.

Patrick Wilson, who was so very fine in another child molester themed flick earlier this year, “Hard Candy” is fast creating an arsenal of great performances that will hopefully expand his obvious pretty boy potential. (Side note: If you never saw his criminally underrated “The Alamo”, you should. It is not what you would expect, and surprised us with its truly epic scope and very fine cast.)

As the documentary filmmaker money maker married to Brad, Jennifer Connelly is perfectly cast. We have to believe that this stunning “Prom King” would land the “Prom Queen”, and we certainly do. While Miss Connelly has always been a strong presence since her prepubescent debut in Sergio Leone’s classic “Once Upon a Time in America”, the passing years continue to refine her exquisite beauty.

Which leads us to one of our few critiques of this film. In an otherwise perfectly handled scene, Brad compares his beautiful wife to the “averageSarah Pierce and questions his attraction to a woman he regards as okay in the looks department, but a tad too rough around the edges. Specifically her eyebrows seem too bushy and unkempt. Seriously, Todd. We adore Jennifer Connelly, but have you looked at her eyebrows lately? You could grow corn in those fields! Now, now. Settle down. It works for her. But that line did not work for us.

Moving on. The lurking menace in the shingled woods is portrayed in a wonderfully composed performance by former child star, Jackie Earle Haley who is back with a vengeance. The one time star of such “classic” kiddie fare from the 70s as the original “The Bad News Bears” and the truly wonderful Oscar nominatedBreaking Away” has been lurking in the background for far too long. Clearly, his adolescent talent has not gone to waste like many former child stars. Here, he is chilling in the role of a man so out of touch with his own ability to judge clearly that he allows himself to make mistake after hideous mistake until the end is far too near.

For the neighborhood watchmen have their eyes out for the alleged predator and begin to torment his daily life with menacing threats and damaging and insulting graffiti on his home. His mother, in a brave attempt to salvage the unsalvageable attempts to force Ronnie out of his shell and convinces him to attempt a local personal ad in the hopes of sparking a normal romance. The result is an arranged meeting with one Sheila, played by the mistress of quirky characters, Jane Adams. Their scene together is alternately sweet, silly, disturbing and finally chilling. We understand that Ronnie is beyond help, even if his mother refuses to believe it.

But what of Sarah and Brad? Well, their coy flirting and casual playtime spent together for the sake of their kids or so they keep telling themselves slowly turns into a passionate affair that threatens to destroy both their marriages. For in discovering a kindred spirit of non-conformity, they have deluded themselves into thinking they are not only doing the right thing but that they might actually have a chance together. If they are brave enough to abandon their existing families for the sake of L’amour fou.

How their choices play out, and the repercussions that are enacted we will leave to the viewer to discover for themselves. And we wish you would. For this is a very entertaining and intelligent film that dares to avoid the obvious and imbues each highly dramatic scene with a touch of irony and wit typically absent form normal Hollywood fare.

We would only like to add praise for Todd Field for avoiding the obvious traps and for his skilled use of narration provide by the gifted Will Lyman. The contrapuntal tones of Mr. Lyman provide the necessary weight to this stylish flick. He acts as more than merely our guide to the various storylines. It helps to hold the more operatic moments grounded in the everyday reality of these very normal folks who have taken a very dark turn out of their cul-de-sac lives. Well done! Bless you all!

Written & Directed by Todd Field
Based on the novel by Tom Perrotta

Kate Winslet as Sarah Pierce
Patrick Wilson as Brad Adamson
Jennifer Connelly as Kathy Adamson
Gregg Edelman as Richard Pierce
Sadie Goldstein as Lucy Pierce
Ty Simpkins as Aaron Adamson
Noah Emmerich as Larry Hedges
Jackie Earle Haley as Ronald James McGorvey
Phyllis Somerville as May McGorvey
Jane Adams as Sheila
Trini Alvarado as Theresa
Will Lyman as Narrator

Cinematography by Antonio Calvache
Film Editing by Leo Trombetta
Original Music by Thomas Newman
Production Design by David Gropman
Art Direction by John Kasarda
Set Decoration by Susan Bode



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