The first words that came out my mouth this afternoon as I watched the closing credits of Todd Field‘s Little Children were “very interesting.” It’s a wee bit cold and a little bit strange, but it’s also a very poised (i.e., stylized but not overly so), carefully composed art film — and as such it has my complete respect.
That sounds like I’m holding back, doesn’t it? I’m not trying to. I just don’t know how else to put it.
It’s less naturalistically moving than Fields’ In The Bedroom, but then it’s a step up from that film — Fields isn’t trying for similar moods and tones. It’s certainly one of the most impressive suburban malaise films I’ve ever seen, in part because the feelings of dread are constant and unnerving. Every step of the way you’re thinking, “Something really bad might happen here.”
This is not a film looking to warm anyone’s heart — that’s for sure. And yet it brings compassion and insight and exquisite humor to its story, which is based on a novel by Tom Perrotta (who also wrote Election), who co-scripted with Fields. It’s a story about characters and situations that I partly recognize and certainly believe in, with almost every one seriously handicapped in one way or another.
Little Children may be better than I’m able to give it credit for right now, three hours after seeing it at the Varsity. I know I haven’t seen anything like it in a long, long while. It’s immensely satisfying and pleasurable to watch a film as ambitious and precise and high-strung as this, and yet it’s not a soother. This said, I’m not sure if it’s an Oscar derby movie or not. I can see how some might find it too queer for their tastes, and I can see some being excited — turned on — by its apart-ness.
This is a film about emotionally arrested adults — 30- and 40-somethings who desperately need to live in their own private dreamspaces, and hang the consequences.
I really loved the perfectly phrased narration (read by Will Lyman), which reminds me somewhat of the dry, sardonic narration in Stanley Kubrick‘s Barry Lyndon. The turn-off element, I suspect, will be the sex-offender character (played by Jackie Earle Haley). He’s a sad, self-torturing, pathetic, very real person — a character I’m not likely to forget. Kudos to Earle for bringing something (don’t know what exactly) really fascinating to it.
Kate Winslet‘s performance, it seems to me, is a near-lock for a Best Actress nom, and I was totally knocked out by how good Patrick Wilson is — it’s the best thing he’s ever done so far, and I’m including his superb acting in in Mike NicholsAngels Over America. Jennifer Connelly also, I feel, outdoes herself here.
If nothing else, this is a fascinating things-are-fucked-up-in-surburbia movie. Everyone needs to see it and chew it over. I plan on seeing it at least another couple of times.