Friday, July 06, 2007

Little Children

Little Children (Todd Field, 2006) [5]

There are points in this film where it really moves along and I think to myself, this is a pretty good film. And then there are times when it all comes crashing down into sanctimonious babble and sledgehammer symbolism. I get it. Sarah and Brad are little children themselves, behaving on the same selfish level as their kids. Brad's wife makes PBS documentaries hence the Frontline style narration which is smug and should have been cut out completely. Everyone talks of castrating the pervert so he does it himself. These points, for lack of a more eloquent term, piss me off, more than any film I've seen since Crash. In his review, the Hack takes this film to task as being moralistic and reactionary but I don't know if I really see it that way. I don't find Field to be condemning these characters even though I must admit that I find them fairly unlikable for the most part. That seems to be the m.o. for the film; none of these characters have their heads in the right place. They're supposed to be looking after their children but I don't think Field and Perrotta place any moralistic hierarchy on anyone. They appear to be just as critical as the stereotypical suburban moms in the park as the selfish main characters. The problem is that the entire story comes across as Todd Solondz light, a film harshly critical of mundane suburbia but with not enough balls to be completely venomous as Solondz or as disarmingly funny as American Beauty.

What saves the film enough for me to give it a respectable grade is that I think that Field formally constructed a film that isn't that bad. It's a bit long but when the narration goes, it becomes a film that is worthwhile in little bits. Kate Winslet as Sarah rises above the lazy suburban moms around her and shows a character that realizes she's in losing situation. There are still times I don't like her character but she makes it go down easier than the others. And the character I ended up having the most sympathy for is Ronnie, who portrayed by Jackie Earle Haley, has a childlike vulnerability (get it?) underneath a truly creepy exterior. He's a man at the will of his own troubling psychology and the hysteria surrounding him. The end loses me completely but up until that point he could be seen as the only character I could actually have sympathy for. And I don't know if that's what Field was going for.

1 comment:

ginny said...

Yeah, I enjoyed Little Children for the most part... well, until the bloody ending. Jack Haley Earle did a great job in this film. I enjoyed it more than American Beauty, as far as suburban melodramas go.