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January 13, 2007

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Movie Review – Little Children (2006)

by RISHI AGRAWAL

In our normal lives, our obsessions toy with us. Everyone has fleeting thoughts, which, if acted upon, would push us outside the bounds of what society finds acceptable. Maybe following those desires would be detrimental, but maybe it could be a release from our unhappy lives. Those fleeting thoughts may claw at us, infect our brain and turn into obsessions, neuroses. Then, we are faced with a choice: whether to give in to those obsessions or push them out of the way like cobwebs, coating our fingers with sticky residue.

It is this very struggle that inflicts the characters in Todd Field’s (In the Bedroom) new film, Little Children. In suburban Massachusetts, Sarah Pierce (Kate Winslet) is a former graduate student who never finished her dissertation. She lives with her husband (Gregg Edelman) and her young daughter (Sadie Goldstein) but cannot shake a growing feeling of unrest. It does not seem like full-fledged depression or ennui to me, but just a general sense of dissatisfaction that we can all relate to. Her life takes a turn for the better when she meets a young father, Brad Adamson (Patrick Wilson) on the playground. Brad has finished law school and has failed the bar exam twice. Instead of studying, he prefers to watch the teenagers go skateboarding. He has a beautiful wife (Jennifer Connelly) but feels no connection to her.

Sarah and Brad become friends, as they take their children to playgrounds and pools. The question of the film becomes whether they should give into the growing sexual tension between them or whether they should remain friends for the sake of their spouses and children.

One thing the film does particularly well is briefly enter the lives of supporting characters. Though the focus of the film remains on Sarah and Brad, we learn a little bit about many of the inhabitants of this town. Everyone in the town has their own set of desires, most of them more unusual than a potential love affair. These obsessions are sometimes destructive and sometimes amusing, but none of them seem like distractions from the main plot.

The voice-over is especially notable in this film. I think it is difficult to have a narrator in a film without being pretentious, especially when the narrator is not one of the characters in the film. However, the voice-over tends to be witty and insightful, and maintains an appropriate tone throughout the film. As we are dealing with some characters cursorily, the voice-over provides necessary exposition.

Some people might be turned off by the ending to the film, which may seem a bit melodramatic. I thought the ending of the film was well-done. Without giving anything away, I think that the ending showed the consequences of what happens when the characters were no longer content to straddle the line between succumbing to their fantasies and fighting against them. The characters, at that point, made their choices, for better or for worse.

In a final note, I should mention Jackie Earle Haley’s performance in this movie as brilliant. Haley was a former child star, best known for The Bad News Bears and Breaking Away. He had not acted in a movie since 1993 and makes his return to the screen in 2006 with two films: Little Children and All the King’s Men. To reveal the nature of Haley’s character would be too much of a spoiler, and I leave it to the viewers to discover it for themselves.

4 stars


2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Laura
    Jan 14 2007

    I would definitely say that Jackie Earle Haley’s character was the one that stayed with me long after the movie was over. I did go to imdb as well as google him. I just couldn’t get his preformance out of my mind.
    The movie overall touched more than one nerve with me as it had many many universal issues in it.

  2. leomoviegoer
    Jan 15 2007

    I agree with everything you said about this film. I did find it necessary with a narrator. Would have been cute to have Perotta the writer do it, or have Field ,a known actor in his own right, to do so. As long as it wasn’t a woman, simply because it would have been too much like Desperate Housewives. I thought Toby Emmerich did an exceptional job, he is one of the producers of the film and does so full time for others. There is nothing but praise for Jackie Earle Haley’s performance. It’s brave and affecting, plus it’s pitch perfect casting with how unusual he looks for one, but also happens to be the core of this film along with the luminous Winslet played to be “ordinary”, yeah right IMO. I love movies that touch on real life, warts and all, that touch base on three key emotions: love, loss, and the pursuit of happiness.

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