Little Children

Little Children

(2007)

The latest film from Oscar-nominated Writer/Director Todd Field (In the Bedroom), combining talents with writer Tom Perrotta (Election) and Kate Winslet. Follows a handful of individuals in suburban middle-class America. The lives of the parents intersect on the playground, local swimming pools and streets of their small community, in surprising and potentially dangerous ways.

Flicks Review

Tom Perrotta wrote the novel Little Children, and also co-wrote the screenplay with director Todd Field (In The Bedroom). I can never really get into his books but they apparently make awesome movies. He wrote Election, a nothing short of great comedy (starring Mathew Broderick & Reece Witherspoon, directed by the Alexander Payne). See Election if you haven’t already, and see Little Children. Both by Perrotta, both good.

Little Children follows the colliding lives of 30 something married mother of one, and quite a shambles, Sarah (Kate Winslet), and buff, pretty boy married father of one Brad (Patrick Wilson). Both, in different ways, are spluttering through mid-life with detached anger, bitterness & false hopes. Meeting via a kiddies’ playground & swimming pool, they dive head first into an affair.

Their stories, and those of their partners, other playground mothers, and new neighbour - convicted paedophile Ronnie (Jackie Earle Haley) - dart and weave to create an opus of middle-aged perplexity.

Likely to appeal most to 30 somethings, it’s a constantly engaging, richly detailed, hilarious, razor sharp satire.

Razor sharp because you’d be hard pushed to find a more bang-on observation of white, middle-class paranoia. What bites so hard is the presence of terror in these people – scared of growing old, of failure, of losing their youth, of losing their identities and their children. They’re all so white knuckled, they’re no longer rational.

The characters are clearly what makes Little Children work. Sarah is at the heart of film. A former women’s rights activist and lesbian, she now finds herself with a toddler and married to a panty-sniffing porn addict. Her self-indulgent distractions – like playing anthropologist in her head, like flirting with Brad - make her a terrible mother. She’s played with a wonderful mix of contradictions and a palpable truth by the always great (and gorgeous) Winslet. Brad is even more pathetic. Having failed his bar exam twice, he tells his wife each night he’s going to the library to study. But he makes it only as far as the entrance, where he sits and watches kids skateboard all night. He’s desperate to be mature & responsible, but unaware of how much he wants to still be 16.

Field does a magnificent job showing the endless complexities of these people – some of the most vivid, recognisable characters in memory. As the story unfolds, Field pushes and prods you in many directions, not above small diversions of interest, shifting tones and subtleties under your feet.

While at times Field is too keen to send you a red herring, after a few minutes you realise you’re in safe hands – whatever’s to happen next will be surprising, and make you laugh.

[By Ed.]

The Peoples' Reviews

Average ratings from 3 ratings, 3 reviews
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I agree completely with Peter Calder (NZ Herald) and more. What a load of tripe, mostly completely unconvincing stereotyped characters, laughably plot hole riddled and irritatingly fake beyond attempts at satire. Hubby and I groaned and hissed all the way through. If you like these themes see 'Notes on a Scandal',' Lantana', 'Short cuts', 'Closer' not this hollywood b***s***.


This gem drew me in and held me tight. Who in this world has not ,at some time, felt guilt, unloved, disrespected , abandoned.? I could sympathise with the selfish motives of the main characters drawn in to an adulterous affair. Even the tortured sex offender had redeeming qualities. Accolades to a superb cast, especially the children and the hordes of extras at he town swimming pool..where much of the story develops.Twists and turns of emotion, but in the end the answer is found where the... More disaffection began.Something we all have experienced. Its a damn pity the movie isn't being shown nationwide..its up there !Hide


Now, it seems to me that when a good film is given an average review it warrants a defence. Everyone knows what it’s like to have Christmas and family celebrations spoiled or at least sucked dry, probably by an older uncle, the one that never had kids and seems generally embittered at the world, ready to pounce on anything that seems young and exciting. Peter Calder’s reviews are that uncle.

‘Little Children’is a gem of a film. Let’s reflect-

1. Said Mr Calder, “It’s a... More movie that’s always about to amount to something but never does: it lets you fancy that it is about to address the great malaise of our age - the moral panic and hysteria surrounding child sexual abuse – but instead it uses it as the hook for a manipulative little subplot”

hmmm.
Now let’s have a think… Wouldn’t it be broad of mind to think about the films title ‘Little children’? Might one very well assume that in fact, we are to view this ordinary suburban context for what it is – a child centred environment that has time and time again been referred to as a place of (metaphorical) parental castration. Basically, the adults are the little children. No one promised a film about child sexual abuse, and who the hell would want one that overtly and explicitly addressed this issue. The success of the film is its clever portrayal of how these characters – intelligent, but misguided – ended up in this situation, with these values and fears and why an afternoon affair is basically the only possibility that makes any sense. One might call that something worth making a film about.

2. Said Mr Calder, “…their drama of infidelity is devoid of context – their separate marriages, she to a businessman, he to a documentary film-maker, are given only the briefest and banal screen time – and is explicable only as the natural coupling of a Botticelli Venus and a gym bunny.”

Oh dear. Devoid of context. My word. Sounds like the poor man’s never laid eyes on an attractive woman in his life. Affairs aren’t about context. She’s bored he’s lonely – that’s a-bloody-nuff. But the film offers us so much more. This isn’t desperate housewives, this is a literary adaptation and a very rich film.
Sarah’s husband, Richard, orders panties online and masterbates in his home office to images of porn star Slutty Kay, wearing them on his nose, to be interrupted by his wife, then left alone to finish up. I wouldn’t refer to that as banal. And if you want context for an affair, sounds like it to me.

3.
The third and most disappointing thing about this film’s press so far. Is that it appears to be screening at only one Auckland cinema. Now, we’re a small nation, with an even smaller art house cinema going community, and I can understand films getting sidelined, for being too controversial, too ‘out there’, or just not well made.
But if this means fewer people can see the film. And herald readers are made dubious. For a good film to be jepordised by a conservative reviewer, I say, ‘tis a shame.

There’s roughly eight weeks until the glory of the festival. Until that time I argue, we can’t allow good films to slip by, under the wet blanket of a bad review.

To all the young, the intelligent, the curious and the cynics (even just to disagree with me), watch this film.

And let’s get excited about cinema.Hide


The Press Reviews

80% of critics recommend.
Rotten Tomatoes Score. More reviews on Rotten Tomatoes

  • BBC

    A mature piece of filmmaking, bursting with life and vigour... Full Review

  • Sure to raise heckles in the tabloid press, this is complex, thought-provoking cinema... Full Review

  • Providing richness of detail and metaphor, elegantly blueprinted themes and impressive mastery of a constantly shifting tone... It is a deeply satisfying film that should be an easy sell to serious moviegoers... Full Review

  • High-minded infidelity drama is full of Big Ideas but littered with frustrating plot holes... Full Review

  • Perrotta's story consistently outguesses the audience, going in unexpected directions that, seconds later, seem inevitable. Filled with moments of painful revelation, real comedy and emotional insight, "Little Children" never lags. One hundred and thirty minutes go by in a shot... Full Review

  • Mr. Field is a filmmaker with an exceptional gift for directing actors -- he's an actor himself -- and an eye for telling detail. (His cinematographer here, as in the previous film, is Antonio Calvache, and again the images are quietly sumptuous.) Yet I was put off by Little Children's satiric tone... Full Review