2006 - United States - 130 minutes
Writers - Todd Field and Tom Perrotta
Director - Todd Field
My Rating - 4 of 5 Stars
Little Children is an engrossing combination of interesting and unusual character studies with a tinge of humor and many superior acting performances. It is taken from a novel by Tom Perrotta who seems to have a knack for creating edgy characters that combine badness and wit. The film Election is also based upon one of his books. As an aside, if you haven't seen Election, I highly recommend it as it contains a powerhouse performance by Reese Witherspoon. I know she won the Oscar for Walk the Line, but I feel her work in Election is much overlooked.
The characters Perrotta gives us in Little Children are quite a mixed bag. They range from the bored and dissatisfied housewife who falls into an affair with a hunky househusband in her community to a pitiful sex offender and the disgraced ex-cop who is out to harass him to the nth degree.
Kate Winslet plays the housewife, a role for which she was nominated for an Academy Award - and rightly so. Housewife Sarah Pierce spends her days drifting through life taking care of her young daughter. She is an outsider when it comes to the group of housewives that meet often in the park where their children play. It seems that they all have a firm grip upon their roles in life, and that Sarah is the only one without innate direction.
Sarah, on a dare, strikes up a conversation with "The Prom King" as he is dubbed by the group. He is Brad Adamson - expertly played by Patrick Wilson - who brings his young son to play in the park. Brad is studying for the bar and is supported by his extremely organized wife.
After finding her husband in an extremely compromising situation - a really funny scene - Sarah devises a plan to get to know Brad much better. This leads to a passionate affair.
Parallel to this story in the film is a look at the life of Ronnie J. McGorvey who is a convicted sex offender (indecent exposure) who has just returned to his mother's home after being in prison. Ronnie is played by Jackie Earle Haley who was nominated for an Academy Award in the Supporting Actor category. Haley has an interesting look about him and doesn't appear often in films or television, but his performances are usually impressive. Before this, he was probably best known for the role of Moocher in Breaking Away. Ronnie is a pitiful man with arrested social development who is doted upon and protected by his mother - beautifully portrayed by Phyllis Somerville.
The connection between these parallel tales is provided by Larry Hedges, an acquaintance of Brad's, who is an ex-cop with a not so illustrious past. Larry has made it his goal to poster the entire town with warning pictures of Ronnie as well as keeping watch on his house and performing little acts of vandalism. Larry is aptly played by character actor Noah Emmerich who is equally adept at playing good guys and bad guys. In this tale, he's a tortured character who is both good and bad with a great deal if "nut case" added.
All of this combines to create over two hours of superior entertainment during which the viewer can relish a wide variety of characters and some really, really good acting.
May 7, 2007