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"Little Children"

Directed by Todd Field.
Written by Todd Field and Tom Perrotta.  Based on the novel by Tom Perrotta.
Starring Kate Winslet, Patrick Wilson, Jackie Earle Haley and Jennifer Connelly.
Release Year:  2006
Review Date:  10/19/06


Much like his earlier film “In the Bedroom”, writer/director Todd Field’s “Little Children”—based on a novel by Tom Perrotta—is so good that you wonder why the man was working in TV for so long.  And much like “In the Bedroom”, “Little Children” takes a strong look at the home life of married adults and makes you come away realizing that temptation even in the most committed of people is just one mistake away.

The story concerns a married man named Brad (Patrick Wilson, from this year’s “Hard Candy”) who has graduated from law school but not passed the bar in his home of Massachusetts.  As such, he’s a stay-at-home dad to his young boy and married to a successful documentary filmmaker named Kathy (Jennifer Connelly) who is the workaholic of the family.  One day, while playing with his son in a small neighborhood park, he meets Sarah (Kate Winslet), the stay-at-home mother of a little girl and wife of a brand marketing exec (Gregg Edelman).  Sarah and Brad and their kids begin to spend time during the day together, most notably at the neighborhood pool, and their collective unhappiness with their respective marriages leads to some risqué behavior.  Meanwhile, a man convicted of indecent exposure to a minor, a strange little man named Ronnie (Jackie Earle Haley), has moved back into the same neighborhood where Brad and Sarah’s families live, and because of laws requiring that residents be aware that sex offenders are living amongst them, many of the town members—including a former cop (Noah Emmerich)—go out of their way to make Ronnie feel unwelcome in his new life.

There’s a lot happening in “Little Children” but the two main storylines never seem to be cheated…the Sarah/Brad relationship gets plenty of time but as the film moves along, we get more and more of Ronnie, which worked for me just fine, because his story (and the way his character intersects with the main plot late in the movie) is an intriguing one and a situation where you actually feel some pity for a guy that really does appear to want to correct his past mistake.  Field also utilizes a narrator to strong effect during “Little Children”; almost as effective as his use of silence throughout “In the Bedroom”, the narrator is at times quite funny, dead serious or fairly insightful as he guides us through the experience.  Field doesn’t overdo it with the narrator; actually, in stretches, the narrator is nowhere to be found.  But when it shows up, the narration is well done and something about the guy’s voice is just perfectly stiff for the situation.

The performances are excellent, but the work by Haley is the best of the bunch; he just makes you uncomfortable from the jump, and as the film wears on Haley’s work just seems to step up a notch.  Of course, the main threesome of Winslet, Wilson and Connelly are all great; the support coming from the women playing Sarah’s friends is solid, Phyllis Somerville is fantastic as Ronnie’s mom, and even the child actors playing the kids of Sarah and Brad are good and don’t interfere with the things happening around them…usually, child actors are a distraction because their reactions to adult conversation seem canned, but the work here is quite good.

I really liked “Little Children” and I can’t believe that our freebie wasn’t a packed house; maybe it was the AFI location in Silver Spring that did it, but when this puppy opens, I expect many people to come away satisfied.  Of course, if you were thinking about cheating on your spouse or partner coming into this film, you might NOT come away satisfied!!!

Rating:  Opening Weekend


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09