Friday, January 26, 2007

"LITTLE CHILDREN"

Kate Winslet, Patrick Wilson, Jackie Earle Haley, Noah Emmerich Jennifer Connelly, Phyllis Somerville

Cinema 5, Power Plant Mall

Little Children


Sometimes it helps to simply watch a movie without even knowing what to expect from it. The only publicity this movie got in this part of the world was when it was nominated for a few Golden Globe awards. We were not subjected to its trailers/previews before the showing of every movie in the theaters unlike "The Ice Age 2" which they kept showing like a year in advance. Quite irritating. But I was curious to find out why this film merited an Oscar nomination for best film and was quite surprised to learn it was being shown at the local theaters.

The story of life in a middle class suburban town where people intersect with each other driven by a strong sense of living a 'righteous' lifestyle. Everyone seems fine on the outside but have some secrets which affect their behavior as parents, as married couples or as individuals in general. Some rather disturbing dark undertones fester among some of the inhabitants. It just sort of creeps up behind you and you simply get drawn into their tales.

Main thrust of the film focuses on Sarah and Brad. She is a lonely bored housewife with a 3 year old daughter (Lucy) trapped in an bland marriage while he is a 'houseband' who gets sidetracked from pursuing a law career, is married to a statuesque wife and together they have a young son (Aaron) whom he dotes upon. Their paths cross one day when they are both in the same playground for their kids' daily play time. They are both drawn to each other simply by affinity since they are mostly the alienated ones, isolated from the supposedly normal roles expected from them by society in general. Sarah is a housewife that doesn't quite fit the mold of a typical suburban mom. She forgets to pack her daughter' snack while they are at the park. Brad is the only male among the housewives who take their kids to the playground or the community swimming pool. He inhibits a childish stance - failing the bar exams twice but instead of reviewing his law books at the library he sits by watching boys rollerskating because it is something he wished he could have experienced as a teenager.


The film opens with the voice of a narrator who seems to be reading lines from a book. After all this film was based on a novel by Tom Perrotta. The narration is sporadic. There are long periods where you completely forget that there was a narration to begin with. The setting is mostly in the small community with scenes of their houses, the streets, the playground or the swimming pool making up most of the shots. Sequences unfold with fluidity, each fraught with some implied meaning which gives us valuable insights on the characters personalities. Aaron taking off his court jester hat when his mother comes home. Lucy's refusal to sit in the baby seat in the car. The word EVIL painted on the doorstep of the sex offender's house yet he makes his appearance half way through the film. I found the swimming pool scenes a bit dragging but mercifully it was redeemed when events unfolded rather quickly towards the suspenseful ending.

But mostly the film is about the characters that inhabit East Wyndam. They all convey different levels of emotions present in each one of us and presented through various behavioral acts such as immaturity, insecurity, passionate desires, loneliness, alienation, rage, power, helplessness, irresponsible, reckless. Their beautiful suburban surroundings betray the fact that these are flawed and complicated characters.

The cast is well balanced to show us through their wide range of facial expressions, their gestures just how fully developed their characters are. Of course Kate Winslet delivers quite well even sounding American. Patrick Wilson seemed a bit mechanical in my opinion but is quite pleasing to the eyes. Special mention goes to the actor Jackie Earle Haley as the pedophile who is eerie and creepy yet at the same time you feel bad for the way the community treats him with such contempt because his disturbing behavior stems from a disease which he seems unable to control. He deserves being nominated as Best Supporting Actor in the forthcoming Oscar awards.


I liked "Little Children" for giving us a different perspective (dare I say a rather dark view) about life in a suburban town but personally, I couldn't identify with the characters in this film. I am not a mother of a young child living in suburbia. I don't have a sex predator (none that I know of) living around the corner. But I do know how it feels to live in a society where you are constantly judged for being different, for not conforming to what society expects from you once you reach a certain age. I won't get into the nitty gritty details.

"Little Children" is a watchable little film but expect to witness some shocking and disturbing scenes (I need to emphasize though that this is not a film about pedophilia) which doesn't really wash down well no matter how hard you try to drown it with that diet Coke you ordered with your popcorn.

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