Little Children Review
By Shawn McKenzie 01/07/2007
Sarah Pierce (Kate Winslet) is a depressed woman from East Wyndam, Massachusetts, who doesn’t fit in with the other neighborhood housewives. She is the stay-at-home mom of 3-year-old Lucy (Sadie Goldstein) with businessman husband Richard (Gregg Edelman)…a man who is obsessed with watching a internet porn star named Carla, a.k.a. “Slutty Kay” (Sarah Buxton.) Sarah was three credits shy of receiving her PhD in English literature when she decided to give it up to become a housewife. One afternoon, she is in the park with Lucy and is bored listening to the other housewives talking about mundane things. One thing that peaks her interest, along with the interests of the other housewives, is that of handsome stay-at-home dad Brad Adamson (Patrick Wilson.) He is married to PBS documentary filmmaker Kathy (Jennifer Connelly), and they have a son named Aaron (Ty Simpkins), who is about Lucy’s age. Brad finished law school two years ago, but he has failed the bar twice. Kathy has been pressuring him to study for his third bar exam, but he would rather goof off and go skateboarding. All of the housewives in the park have dubbed him “The Prom King,” and he is the object of their repressed sexual desires. Sarah bets three of the housewives…Mary Ann (Mary B. McCann), Theresa (Trini Alvarado), and Cheryl (Marsha Dietlein)…$5 that she can’t go up to Brad and talk to him (none of them have ever tried talking to him before.) She strikes up a friendly conversation, and then decides to stage a minor scandal by hugging him and giving him a little kiss. Soon, they are taking their kids together to the pool frequently, and then one afternoon while the kids are taking a nap, they end up having sex with one another. Meanwhile, Sarah and Brad have outside interests. Sarah goes jogging with her older friend/occasional babysitter Jean (Helen Carey), and they both discuss books in a local book club, where Sarah defends her opinion of Gustave Flaubert’s novel Madame Bovary…about a doctor’s wife who has adulterous affairs in order to escape the emptiness of a simple life. Brad has become the quarterback for a nighttime touch-football team called the Guardians…consisting of former police officers. His ex-cop friend Larry Hedges (Noah Emmerich) is the one who asked him to QB for the team. Larry has other concerns on his mind though. He is the head of a movement dedicated to the ousting of Ronald James McGorvey (Jackie Earle Haley)…a convicted sex offender who served two years in jail for exposing himself to a child. He has moved back into the neighborhood and is living with his smothering mother May (Phyllis Somerville.) After Ronnie freaks everyone out at the community pool, May encourages him to go on a date with Sheila (Jane Adams)…an emotionally damaged woman whom May thinks would be perfect for her little boy. Sarah and Brad must decide whether to leave their unhappy marriages and lives, and go down another path together.
I wasn’t psyched about seeing Little Children. Director Todd Field’s first feature, 2001’s In the Bedroom, had an interesting plot and garnered several Oscar nominations, but I ultimately thought that it was dull to watch. This movie ended up being much more interesting than I had expected.
It’s already getting lots of awards attention. The Golden Globes have nominated it for Best Dramatic Picture, Best Actress for Winslet, and Best Screenplay for Field and Tom Perrotta (who also wrote the 2004 novel that the movie was based on.) In addition, Haley and Wilson have also been honored with nominations for many critics’ awards.
The question is…did I like it? I did…though I wouldn’t say that it was my favorite movie of the year. It was a little long (2 hours and 10 minutes), and the narration during the first half of the movie, provided by PBS’s “Frontline” narrator Will Lyman, distracted from the action onscreen.
Otherwise, I was pleasantly surprised by it. The acting was excellent all around. Winslet has been getting the most kudos, but Haley has the most memorable role as a creepy pedophile that you almost feel sorry for, since he was obviously warped by his mother. Haley’s most noticeable role for me was as rebellious teenager Kelly Leak in the Bad News Bears movies. 2006 was his comeback year, with this movie and the awful remake of All the King’s Men. Getting back to Winslet…I felt like she had great chemistry with Wilson. Those sex scenes were definitely some of the hottest ones in 2006.
Winslet and Wilson’s onscreen spouses didn’t have much to do though. Connelly was the one of the two who had more scenes in which to display her talents, though they mostly consisted of her being naïve about the affair. Edelman didn’t have many scenes, and he pretty much disappears after the first half of the movie (according to my research, Richard was a much more prominent character in the novel.) Heck…even Emmerich’s Larry character had more screen time than the spouses of the main characters.
I’m predicting that Little Children will get Oscar nominations for Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress for Winslet, and Best Supporting Actor for Haley. Its Golden Globe nominations alone should garner some interest in the movie. While it’s not nearly as good as 1999’s American Beauty (the movie it has been most compared to), it is certainly better than In the Bedroom, and it might make me not so apprehensive to see Field’s next flick.
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