Monday, April 02, 2007

Little Children ..Not A Review

Little Children is a 2006 Academy Award and Golden Globe Award-nominated drama film directed by Todd Field, based on the novel by Tom Perrotta.
This movie is based on a novel (of the same name) by Tom Perrotta. I have to admit I have not read the book, nor did I know anything about it. A recap of what the movie is about is below..

Little Children takes place in fictional East Wyndham a well to do neighborhood in suburban Connecticut. It is in this neighborhood that the lives of several characters intersect in a rather interesting manner. Sarah Pierce (Kate Winslet) and her affair with Brad Adamson (Patrick Wilson). Sarah is a stay at home mom with a 3 year old daughter, Lucy. She has a master’s in Anthropology and has not quite gotten around to completing her Ph.D. Brad is a former college football player who is married to Kathy Adamson (Jennifer Connelly), who is a documentary film maker. He is a stay at home dad to his young son, while he tries to pass the bar exam (failing twice). We get the sense that Brad is enfeebled not wearing the pants in the house, this is conveyed via scenes where he is denied requests for a cell phone and his subscriptions to magazines called in to question. There is also a sense that Kathy puts pressure on him to go study at the local library, instead he spends his time watching some local youths skate boarding.

There are a host of interesting characters in this movie. There are the 3 other moms who come to the park where Sarah brings her daughter. In the movie they are a blonde, a redhead and a brunette. There is this scene where they sit on a bench and get all a twitter as Brad shows up with his son. The scene is funny and sad, because you see them all Stepfordian almost, their daily, routine lives suddenly enlivened for that brief moment when Brad "the prom king as they call him" shows up.

There is Sarah’s husband who works for another nameless corporation and is addicted to internet porn.I thought Kathy’s character in the movie was not as well sketched out either but maybe I am wrong.

There is also Ronald James McGorvey (Jackie Earle Haley), who out of prison for exposing him self to minors has moved back into the neighborhood to live with his mother. Larry Hudges (Noah Emmerich), a former police officer, leads a campaign against McGorvey, harassing both the man and his mother. Larry has his own secret from his past. He does convince Brad to sign up for a touch football league and Brad seems to enjoy the camaraderie and almost feels like a man again as he relives his days from college football.

During a game Brad is delighted to find Sarah up in the bleachers cheering him on. Brad asks Sarah to run away with him, explaining how the two of them will be good together and how their children are already comfortable with each other. Sarah and Brad agree to meet at the park the next night. The events up to this point have already been building up and come to a head.

This is a movie that talks about some very important issues that revolve around love, marriage, life in suburbia (especially in the Western world) and the often draining sense of loneliness and dysfunction that lie just beneath the surface.

Scenes from the movie I liked..
Movie opened with a cacophony of alarms from the various clocks going off in the house inhabited by McGorvey’s mother. I did not quite understand where that was going till I got to the point in the movie where Ronald breaks down after his mother dies. Perhaps it was an allegory for the demons in his head. In my book people who prey on children are the worst. Society often prefers these people be put away for life and not worry about the difficult issues that arise after their release. Psychosexual disorders have to, and require long term treatment and these offenders have a high degree recidivism. I am not sure how the audience is supposed to react to Ronald other than with the feeling of revulsion. However there are times one wishes for him to be able to live free of his demons, like a normal person. But can people with psychosexual disorders particularly of the pathological variety be truly rehabilitated? This is probably a question for experts.

Kate Winslet was absolutely amazing in her role as Sarah, having seen both her and Helen Mirren I find myself now wishing the oscar had gone to Kate Winslet. Like someone said Hollywood may also be swayed by the body of work to date and not just that particular role, which may explain Helen Mirren winning.

The scene where Brad and Sarah first talk to each other while pushing their kids on the swings in the park. The moment is beautifully captured for its sheer banality. There is nothing between the two except for the mechanical manner in which they push the swings, and the rhythmic creaking as they indulge in their ordinary chatter says a lot.

The scene on one hot day when Ronald goes to the community pool to take a dip. It takes a while for people to realize who it is, and once they do its amazing how the pool empties and the laughter and squeals of the children is replaced by a deafening quiet as Ronald is the only guy left in the pool. As the cops come and haul off Ronald the kids are back in the pool and the babble of kids is back. It’s like everything goes back to normal as “normal” as suburbia can be. I am not sure how this is in the book but the director Todd Field’s has done an amazing job with this movie.

I often wondered about the nature of suburbia, the perfect houses and the lawns, everyone looking “happy” with their cars and all the trappings of a “fulfilling” life. I am now a part of that to some extent. I loved the critical eye cast on this aspect of life. The normalcy and completeness that one is supposed to feel after being married and settled down, but is it truly normal or complete?

The loneliness that a suburban existence can bring about is really well documented. Pretty much every character in the movie was affected by this, and everyone seemed to have found their way of dealing with it. Notice I said dealing with it, not overcoming it. It is sort of like trying to fill a space with something but it never seems enough to quite fill it up.

I did get a sense of a sort of distance between Sarah and her daughter Lucy. I could not quite fathom the exact nature of this part of being a mother and a child. I could sense Lucy craving more of her, while Sarah seemed to be almost focusing on herself and the life of those around her. I probably should read the book to get a better sense of things.

I also liked the scene where the Sarah and Brad’s families get together for dinner and Kathy at once senses the sexual tension between the two of them and her dropping the fork under the table as a pretense to see if they were playing footsie. Some masks are just worn much closer and firmly I guess.

The explicit (relatively speaking of course, there is a lot of cinema which is not squeamish about nudity and sex at all) scenes especially between Sarah and Brad were for me refreshing to watch. Personally I always feel Hollywood and folks give a free pass to graphic violence but sex and love scenes often get critiqued unnecessarily. These scenes were very integral to understanding and portraying the hurried nature of, and the desperation of their passion. Was it born out of their desire to escape for a few moments the confines of their comfortable yet suffocating almost loveless lives? Their attempt at appearing almost casual when they met in public while being passionate in private was also well portrayed.

The movie presents a lot of flawed people but who are still humane, and we could see that in one of the final acts that Larry does, possibly his last stab at redemption?

The movie also ended on a rather ambiguous note, where we knew Sarah goes back to her life as does Brad (his goodbye letter to Kathy as he leaves is never left behind for her, and stays with him).I am not sure where the book ends but I sort of liked the open ended nature of it. To use a commonplace expression, life often does not end up being all nice with loose ends tied up, and why should it? I absolutely loved this movie, it made me think and had me ask questions of myself that were not always comfortable nor were the answers. In that the movie succeeded.


deepsat said...

Nice review Sanjay! Indeed this sort of movie makes one think abt life and relationships at a different level!!

ML said...

Wonderful review! I really like Kate Winslet, always have.

Yours is the second review I've read on this movie and sounds like a must see.

meno said...

A very thourough review. Have you ever done reviews for a newspaper or the like?

Sanjay said...

@Deepsat.. Thanks!

@ML. Thanks much. The movie is a must see.

Meno. Thanks. No I have never done reviews for anyone, no classes for writing or anything. Never written until I started this blog.

patches said...

I enjoy the depth of your "Not a Review". Speaking as a suburban voyeur, many of the residents constantly seek completeness through accumulation, I'm sad to say it usually escapes them.

Asha said...

Sorry Sanjay.Did I miss any of your posts? Allergy has hit me really bad,can't open my without feeling like they are on fire:(

Anyway,great review,I like Kate Winslet as well.Might rent it.Thanks.

Beenzzz said...

Hi Sanjay,
Great review. The dynamic of suburban life is often a complicated one. You'd believe that it was all roses, wouldn't you? The suburbs is is just a peaceful curtain that covers corruption. This movie sounds like a good one. I will add it to my list of movies to see.

Sanjay said...

@Patches. Thanks. I don't get the acquisition bit either. It's much a like a drug, the high lasts only so long, before the next fix.. err purchase.

@Asha. Just the friday poetry post, not much else I think. I hope you feel better soon.

@Beenzzz. Thanks. Actually I don't think of it as roses at all. There is pretty much a dark underbelly to a lot of things. Life in suburbia or that idyllic life often comes at some cost.
This movie should be worth the time spent on it.

Beenzzz said...

I didn't mean "you" specifically, but "you" as in the average Joe.

Sanjay said...

@Beenzzz.. Ya I did not think you meant "me", but thank you for clarifying that. :)

Carrie said...

You should review movies for a living. That was well done. You always make me want to watch the film after reading your review and I am not a movie-goer.

Lotus Reads said...

Hey Sanjay!

I am impressed that you manage to catch a movie almost every weekend. I had vowed to do the same, but somehow, before I know it, the weekend's gone and I haven't watched my movie! I'm going to have to play "catch-up" on the Easter weekend!

I enjoyed reading your thoughts on "Little Children"...I have read the book and it really made me think about suburbia and how those white picket fences are not always indicative of shiny, happy families...

I have got to get the DVD when it comes out in May!

Sanjay said...

@Carrie.. Thanks. There is hope that you might still turn in to a moviegoer eh? :)

Sanjay said...

@Lotus. Thank you for your comments. I think not having kids has something to do with being able to watch movies so often, dunno just a guess.
Yep, hope you can catch up with the movies you want to watch on the long weekend.
Perhaps I should read the book to get a better understanding of the world portrayed by Perotta.
I am sure you will enjoy this movie even more since you have read the book?
Enjoy the rest of your Monday.

Mona Buonanotte said...

Jackie Earle Haley...I hear he did a great job on this. I always wondered what happened to him, glad to see he's acting again.

Beach Bum said...

Because of your review I plan on seeing the movie now. While I enjoy an action/adventure movie every now and then I must admit that I have grown very tired of the new set of action/horror/sci fi blockbusters that seem to come out every three months. It will be very nice to see and intelligent adult movie for a change.
A couple of aspects of the movie hit close to home for me. My wife is an attorney, white collar, and I'm a biomed technician at a local hospital, pretty much blue collar, and no one should have to guess who in the family makes more money. For that reason alone it will be nice to see how much the character of Brad and I compare.
As for living in suburbiam it is strange to see how many of the families do "seek completeness through accumlation" as patches said.

NainaAshley said...

Great review Sanjay! I have wanted to see this movie ever since I heard the review on NPR. Now your review has made me even more eager to see it. Don't know when that will happen though. My movie going days have been over ever since my little one was born. Will probably rent it sometime.

moegirl said...

Great review. I want to see this movie. I've always been a big Kate Winslet fan.

Teri said...

hmmm, I think I might like to see this one. I've been accused of being a movie snob in the past, and I don't see many movies, but this one sounds good.

Keshi said...



Keshi said...



Viewer said...

Laltely u have become a BIG movie Buff :)

Something to Say said...

what an awesome post Sanjay. Now I really want to watch this movie. And you're so right - the suburbia environment which we crave - which perhaps makes us feel safer - hides so many people, issues, incidents....

iz said...

Movie hasnt come to India yet. But it sounds super-exciting!

Sanjay said...

@Mona..Yes Jackie did do a great job, it is kind eerie how he got in to the skin of the character.

@Beach. I hear ya. I have to say I lvoe action flicks as well, but usually catch them on DVD. The mvoie should be interesting for you to watch, but unlike you Brad is SAHD.

@Naina. Thanks. You know renting may be the way to go, I have even watched movies in installments over days. :)

@Moegirl. Thanks. I think you will enjoy this movie. Kate is amazing!

@Teri. Yes you may like this one.

@Keshi.. Thanks

@Viewer.. Always watched a lot of movies, only difference is now I blog about them. :)

@Something to say.. yep you got that right.

@IZ. Thanks for stopping by, hope you like it.

Intern said...

wonderful review.
I didnt like Kate wionslet at all in Titanic.but after that I have become increasingly fond of her..Now I really admire her ... and of course her Brit accent!!!

Orchid said...

This movie has been on my list for a logn time...haven't read your review yet...will compare notes after I watch it...for a chnage, how abt that??
Reading the posts I missed now!

Sanjay said...

@Intern.. Thanks, I am afraid you hear her speaking American here :)

@Orchid.. Thanks, that is a new way to read the post. Go for it :)

Maggie said...

You do write excellent movie reviews and you have a fresh perspective. Maybe you ought to try doing reviews for a newspaper or journal?

Sanjay said...

@Maggie thanks. I think writing like this is fun, I probably could not do it otherwise. :)

bharath said...

great review sanjay. I watched this movie a month ago. It didn't quite sink in as your review did it for me. :)

SS said...

I've been meaning to rent this film for a while now .... again, I really liked what you had to say.

Some of what you said hit home ..I do dread the suburban lifestyle somewhat because there is this sense of feeling trapped ... That's why I still live in the city,I guess ..trying to delay the inevitable .. or maybe I just don't wanna feel so grown-up :-)