Saturday, July 14, 2012

Review: "Little Children" is Social Satire at Play (Happy B'day, Jackie Earle Haley)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 87 (of 2007) by Leroy Douresseaux

Little Children (2006)
Running time: 137 minutes (2 hours, 17 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong sexuality and nudity, language, and some disturbing content
DIRECTOR: Todd Field
WRITERS: Todd Field and Tom Perrotta (based upon the novel by Tom Perrotta)
PRODUCERS: Albert Berger, Ron Yerxa, and Todd Field
EDITOR: Leo Trombetta
COMPOSER: Thomas Newman
2007 Academy Award nominee


Starring: Kate Winslet, Patrick Wilson, Jennifer Connelly, Gregg Edelman, Sadie Goldstein, Ty Simpkins, Noah Emmerich, Jackie Earle Haley, Phyllis Somerville, Helen Carey, and Mary B. McCann

The lives of several suburbanites who are struggling with satisfaction intersect on the streets of their small town in director Todd Field’s Little Children.

Little Children is a 2006 drama with darkly comic undertones from director Todd Field and starring Kate Winslet. The film is based on the 2004 novel of the same name by Tom Perrotta, who also co-wrote the film’s screenplay.

Sarah Pierce (Kate Winslet) is a young mother who doesn’t really know how to be a mother to her daughter, Lucy (Sadie Goldstein). She is dissatisfied with her husband, Richard (Gregg Edelman), so she starts an affair with stay-home dad, Brad Adamson (Patrick Wilson). Brad has failed the bar exam twice, much to the chagrin of his wife, Kathy (Jennifer Connelly), who while preoccupied with her career, still has time to suspect that Brad and Sarah are having an affair while using Lucy and their son Aaron (Ty Simpkins) as cover. Meanwhile, Ronnie J. McGorvey (Jackie Earle Haley), a child predator recently released from prison, has moved back in with his mother, May McGorvey (Phyllis Somerville), much to the consternation of his neighbors. The angriest resident is Larry Hedges (Noah Emmerich), a retired cop with a tragic past. Will Lyman, the voice of PBS’s “Frontline,” provides narration.

Fields seems to be of two minds in Little Children. For most of the first hour, Little Children is a satirical comedy about suburban dissatisfaction. It’s almost an anthropological study of suburbanites who are physically adults and who have taken on adult responsibilities, but who are really adolescents. The second half of Little Children is mostly a domestic drama that deals with the repercussions of immaturity, irresponsibility, and disloyalty to the nuclear family to which one belongs.

Chilling, smart, acerbic, poignant, and occasionally sly, Little Children takes a sharp look at suburban life without criticizing the lifestyle so much as it mocks how some live it. (Thanks in no small part to Will Lyman’s narration.) In that, Little Children is potent, but it has a glaring weakness. It drifts in the middle. Somewhere between transforming from a social satire to an edgy domestic drama, the narrative gets really soft. It’s enough to kill the film, before the edgy events of the second half take hold.

The performances are good, but Kate Winslet, who earned many award nominations for playing Sarah Pierce, is merely good, not great, which is good enough. (She doesn’t have to be great all the time.) On the other hand, Jackie Earle Haley makes the most of his relatively small role. He doesn’t make Ronnie a sex offender with a heart of gold. In fact, he isn’t shy about showing how dangerous Ronnie can be. Ultimately, what opens this film and what earned him so much praise, is how Haley reveals the struggle and frustrated anger that resides in a man who cannot grow a good future because he may be trapping himself in the poison ground of his dreadful, sinful past.

7 of 10

2007 Academy Awards: 3 nominations: “Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role” (Kate Winslet), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” (Jackie Earle Haley), and “Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay” (Todd Field and Tom Perrotta)

2007 BAFTA Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Actress in a Leading Role” (Kate Winslet)

2007 Golden Globes, USA: 3 nominations: “Best Motion Picture – Drama,” “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama” (Kate Winslet), “Best Screenplay - Motion Picture” (Todd Field and Tom Perrotta)

Thursday, June 07, 2007


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