Sunday, February 25, 2007

Movie Review: Little Children

Little Children

In Brief: What's Good

  • Great performances, especailly from Kate Winslet.

  • Quirky mix of very serious (sometimes disturbing) drama and the occasional bit of humor.

  • Intellectual narration by an unseen, uncredited source adds an interesting aspect to the movie that I like even though I can't put my finger on why.

In Brief: What's Not So Good

  • There is some strong sexual content and disturbing content that may make some people feel uncomfortable.

  • The story seems to attempt to invoke at least a little bit of sympathy for a character that is a "recovering" pedophile. It is written well enough to succeed in that regard, but that's not necessarily a good thing.

B- Story
B+ Acting
B+ Directing
B- Visuals

Kate Winslet plays Sarah Pierce, a college-educated feminist, who has reluctantly become a suburban homemaker. Frustrated with her marriage and in need of a little excitement, Sarah is intrigued and tempted by Brad, a stay-at-home dad who, along with his young son, frequents the same park and city pool that Sarah and her daughter do. Meanwhile, an ex-cop forced into early "retirement" takes protection and service a bit too far when a known pedophile moves into the same neighborhood.

The movie portrays Sarah as being someone uncomfortable in her own life. She hasn't quite settled into motherhood very well yet. She doesn't seem too motivated in being beautiful, never wearing make-up or getting her hair done. She doesn't have the same opinions or interests as her fellow stay-at-home mothers at the park. With the exception of one room she customizes herself, the house she lives in still has the furniture and decorations of her husband's ex-wife who lived there before her. And, her husband Richard is keeping secret a disturbing hobby that distracts him from being a more attentive husband and father.

Brad seems to have a similar problem. Having failed the bar exam twice, he doesn't seem too interested in becoming a lawyer, something that seems to be very important to his beautiful yet nagging, documentary filmmaker wife Kathy, played by Jennifer Connelly. Brad seems very happy being a stay-at-home dad with their young son, but when Kathy comes home from work, Brad gets jealous at the attention Kathy and their son give each other, leaving Brad to feel outcast.

The movie is well written on several levels. It gives a more down-to-earth sense of suburban life than some more glitzy, Hollywood movies may accomplish while still using dark, disturbing storylines to drive the tension. It explores issues of parenthood, fidelity, addictions, passion, and perversion. Because of the troubled marriages of the two main characters, Sarah and Brad, you almost want them to hook up because they seem better suited to each other and deserve more happiness, even though such a thing would be morally wrong.

The story also tries to give an intriguing yet uncomfortable perspective on Ronnie James McGorvey (played by Oscar-nominated Jackie Earle Haley), a sex offender who has served his prison time for flashing little girls and has now moved back in with his mother. He realizes his pedophilia is a sickness and desperately wishes he was normal. His mother believes Ronnie might be better if he met a woman his own age. He is still sufficiently creepy and unstable enough to be unlikeable, but the movie does invoke the *slightest*, unexpected twinge of sympathy for Ronnie. His urges are unintended, and he has a desire to be a better person.

In a way, this movie does with a pedophile what Last King of Scotland did with the butcherous African dictator Idi Amin. Last King of Scotland shows the charming, captivating side of Amin in addition to his crimes against humanity. This movie paints Ronnie as being a vulnerable and immature adult needing protection and seeking acceptance, despite his sick addiction. Most of the *small* bit of sympathy that may be evoked, however, comes from the way Ronnie and his mother are terrorized by Larry, an ex-cop that's taking caution and community vigilence against Ronnie to an equally obsessive level.

While the middle of the movie makes you start to wonder how the differing subplots are related and where the story is going, the end of the movie does bring the storylines together. However, I would have liked a little more closure to the Sarah/Brad relationship.

There also seem to be a few missing scenes in the movie that I'm guessing may possibly show up in the special features of the forthcoming DVD. There is a point in the movie when two people get to go out on their first "date," but we only see the setup and aftermath but none of what actually happened on the date. In another scene, we see that a secondary character may have figured out someone's secret because it's put her in an uneasy mood around a major character, but we never learn for sure if the secondary character truly knows the secret and, if so, how they found out. Also, while possibly left out on purpose, there is a surprisingly small amount of screen time with Sarah's husband Richard.

Little Children is only a little bit about actual children. Sarah, Brad, Ronnie, and Larry--like children--are learning, making mistakes, running away from their problems, doing stupid things to get their way, discovering themselves, still getting picked on, and still having some serious "growing up" to do. The little children of the main characters, the need for one character to stay away from children, and the tragic mistake one person accidentally committed against a child, are all just catalysts for important lessons these adults still have to learn.

Oscar Awards

  • Nomination - Best Lead Actress: Kate Winslet

  • Nomination - Best Supporting Actor: Jackie Earle Haley

  • Nomination - Best Adapted Screenplay: Todd Field and Tom Perrotta

Screen Actor Guild Awards

  • Nomination - Best Lead Actress: Kate Winslet

  • Nomination - Best Supporting Actor: Jackie Earle Haley

Golden Globe Awards

  • Nomination - Best Drama Motion Picture

  • Nomination - Best Drama Lead Actress: Kate Winslet

  • Nomination - Best Screenplay: Todd Field and Tom Perrotta

Fun Fact from Internet Movie Database

The uncredited narrator is Will Lyman.

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