Little Children

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Postby VanHelsing » Thu Sep 07, 2006 12:36 am

Ooooh, Lynch would be a great choice as well. Waters is too indie.
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Postby Penelope » Wed Sep 06, 2006 3:34 pm

VanHelsing wrote:
Penelope wrote:(does Todd Field have a Peyton Place obsession? this is his second film about secrets and scandal in a small town, and In the Bedroom was filmed in the same town as Peyton Place)

OMG! I didn't know that! Then Field should be the most suitable guy to direct Bullock in Grace. God, please let it happen!

Van Helsing, actually, Todd Field, despite his seeming Peyton Place devotion (to be honest, I have no idea if he's ever seen the film), he strikes me as the wrong director for Grace--Field is far too serious--the story of a foul-mouthed housewife who writes a 'dirty' bestseller and then drinks herself to death requires a more edgy sensability--methinks something along the lines of a David Lynch or, what the hell, John Waters (the latter, in particular, has confessed an affinity for Metalious' novel).
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Postby Damien » Tue Sep 05, 2006 11:02 pm

rudeboy wrote:Have you seen his IMDb head shot? He's very very scary looking now - completely unrecognisable as that cute little 70s kid.

Actually, Jackie Earle was a pretty grim-looking child in the 70s. He was no Lee H. Montgomery.
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Postby VanHelsing » Tue Sep 05, 2006 8:29 pm

Penelope wrote:(does Todd Field have a Peyton Place obsession? this is his second film about secrets and scandal in a small town, and In the Bedroom was filmed in the same town as Peyton Place)

OMG! I didn't know that! Then Field should be the most suitable guy to direct Bullock in Grace. God, please let it happen!
With a Southern accent...

"Don't you dare lie to me!" and...

"You threaten my congeniality, you threaten me!"



-------



"You shouldn't be doing what you're doing. The truth is enough!"

"Are you and Perry?" ... "Please, Nelle."

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Postby Mister Tee » Tue Sep 05, 2006 1:50 pm

I know everyone's concentrated on Winslet and Haley, and the film itself...but I'm happiest about the attention to Phyllis Somerville. I know Phyllis a bit (my wife knows her well, from way back); she's a terrific lady, and a pro's pro working actress. For her to get recognition of this sort relatively late in her career is quite gratifying (and well earned).

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Postby flipp525 » Tue Sep 05, 2006 11:20 am

Not the best written review, but another glowing one.

LITTLE CHILDREN
by David Poland

It is hard to figure out where to start discussing Little Children.

It is easy enough to say that it is the best American film of 2006 to date, since it is.

To say that this film is one of the great sophomore efforts of all time (by director/co-writer Todd Field) is no overstatement. And to write that Tom Perrotta is fortunate that this only the second film made from one of his books, since seven years after Election this is one of the few films worthy of being a successor to that unexpected achievement, would be fair, but too easy.

One could easily assert that Little Children is the film that Ang Lee and Alan Ball and Robert Redford and Paul Thomas Anderson and even Woody Allen have been trying to make for a long time. (Allen had the most success with the magnificent Crimes & Misdemeanors.) Others, like Alejandro Inarritu and Steven Soderbergh and Alexander Payne and Cameron Crowe and Jim Brooks and the Coen Brothers are working on similar canvases, but are too interested in entertaining to go somewhere quite this dry and relentless (though they often come close and achieve greatness on different levels). I love me some Malick, but he wants to let the wind blow through our hair and to allow us to reflect on ourselves even as we watch his movies. In England & Ireland, Jim Sheridan and Alan Parker and Neil Jordan and Mike Leigh have gone here and have probably come closer to this work in defining their cultures than American filmmakers previously have. But the one filmmaker whose voice is clear and clean in Little Children, aside from Todd Field, is Stanley Kubrick's. This is not an imitation (in spite of some very specific steals), but Field's breathed in and assimilated extension of The Master's Voice.

But I still haven't told you much about the movie.

As much as I want to offer an easy description of the film, it's not a possibility. Confirming that is New Line's terrific, but narrow, trailer for the movie. They decided, understandably, to focus on "The Affair" in the film. But man, I am here to tell you… it's just the appetizer.

I keep finding myself singing Pete Seeger's "Little Boxes," currently enjoying renewed fame as the theme song of Showtime's first great non-niche series, Weeds, to myself when I think of this film...

"Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky-tacky,
Little boxes, little boxes,
Little boxes, all the same.

There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they're all made out of ticky-tacky
And they all look just the same."


There is something about the light heart behind that song and the simple understanding of human nature that connects to the film for me (much more than the TV series, actually). We are not all the same. And none of us is all that different. We are all made of the same ticky-tacky.

In Little Children's case, "we" are stay-at-home mothers and stay-at-home-fathers and working moms and working dads and convicted sex offenders and the mothers of convicted sex offenders and cops and the handicapped and the emotionally handicapped and neighbors and of course, lots of little children of many different ages.

We are all so unique. We are all so different. Our decision-making is so inevitably passionate and so inevitably rational.

This is the remarkable power of Little Children. And, make no mistake, it will take a lot of people more than a moment to get used to that power.

The film is very, very funny, but audiences are afraid to laugh at a lot of the humor. After all, how funny are cheating and perversion and mean-spiritedness and outright stupidity? Very funny. But it's a Kubrickian humor… tough and more than a little shocking.

One of the devices is a rather unexpected voiceover that is at first discomfiting, but which clarifies its value as it continues. (The familiar voice is Will Lyman, who does the voiceovers for Frontline on PBS… which, not so coincidentally, is the network the film's Kathy makes docs for.) But Todd Field keeps the voiceover (which is almost all directly out of the Perrotta book) within its own realm. It has a sense of humor, but it never falls into comedy.

The most talked about element of the film will be the convicted sex offender with a proclivity for little children. But anyone who would call it "that child molester movie" would be simplifying beyond reason. The character, played by Jackie Earle Haley, comes home to his mother, played by the amazing Phyllis Somerville. (She should be Oscar bait. Breathtaking work.) And this character is so complex and real that it really stands up there with some of the greats. This man knows what he is and he knows what he isn't. And he struggles. And his mother struggles. And as tough as it is to watch at times without wincing, its truth is profound.

Winslet rarely misses. And her turn here is layered in ways you can't imagine even as you watch it. She plays a character who thinks she knows her parameters… but until they are challenged, she doesn't. This probably should be her Oscar winner.

Patrick Wilson is surprisingly right in his role. Some have suggested that he is a little too much the character… a little too easy to understand. But I think it is daring to be that open.

And the most underappreciated performance in those three fronting leads will surely be Jennifer Connelly's. But it really is one of her best ever. She plays The Perfect Woman. But as we all know, no one really is perfect. And while we never get too much range from the character, Connelly breathes her in a daring and unselfish way that I really admired. It's one of those roles that feels so real that people won't realize how structured a performance it is.

Todd Field has made a big step as a director here. He has taken his In The Bedroom skills and his passion for Kubrick and added his own twists of style and skill. There isn't a shot in the movie that feels wrong. Whether it's a table scene with four characters who are each in a completely different place emotionally or a scene underwater meant to force/allow us to see through the eyes of a sex offender or a satirical take on football, Field uses the whole toolbox with assurance and detail. And any time you get the feeling that maybe he got the wrong performance out of someone, the reason why it is perfection is right around the corner.

Little Children is the first American masterpiece of 2006. We'll be chewing on this one for a long time to come.
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Postby rudeboy » Tue Sep 05, 2006 9:56 am

Damien wrote:
Sabin wrote:and Jackie Earle Haley (whose full name I expect to see in print more than any other nominee this year

Wow, Jackie Earle Haley is back? Where has he been all these years?

Have you seen his IMDb head shot? He's very very scary looking now - completely unrecognisable as that cute little 70s kid.

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Postby Penelope » Tue Sep 05, 2006 5:13 am

I'm relaxing today, having overextended myself a bit the past few days wandering around Istanbul (a bit of a sunburn and a sore throat). Anyway, based on other reviews I've read, the overall film has divided critics, making picture and director (does Todd Field have a Peyton Place obsession? this is his second film about secrets and scandal in a small town, and In the Bedroom was filmed in the same town as Peyton Place) difficult to assess, but at the very least I think we can expect acting nods for Kate, Jackie Earl Haley, maybe Patrick Wilson and possibly Phyllis Sommerville.
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Postby Damien » Tue Sep 05, 2006 2:38 am

Sabin wrote:and Jackie Earle Haley (whose full name I expect to see in print more than any other nominee this year

Wow, Jackie Earle Haley is back? Where has he been all these years? Does this foreshadow a career renaissance for Alfred W. Lutter?
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Postby Sabin » Mon Sep 04, 2006 11:58 pm

It's too early for predictions, but 'Little Children' seems set to replicate 'In the Bedroom''s take -- a screenplay nod (maybe win this time), three acting nods for Wilson, Winslet, and Jackie Earle Haley (whose full name I expect to see in print more than any other nominee this year), and a longshot Picture nod. The only difference I see this moment is a failure on Winslet's part to stand in the way of Helen Mirren at the critic's awards.
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Postby Mister Tee » Mon Sep 04, 2006 10:03 pm

Apparently it's good, but in a way that makes people feel queasy. Screen Daily:

Little Children

Mike Goodridge in Los Angeles 01 January 1900

Dir: Todd Field. US. 2006. 130mins.

Five years after his delicate debut film In The Bedroom was steamrollered into the mainstream by distributor Miramax Films, Todd Field settles into a determinedly off-kilter groove in his follow-up Little Children. An unsettling and richly-drawn portrait of dysfunction in affluent suburbia, it sits somewhere between American Beauty, Douglas Sirk’s 1950s period and Todd Solondz’s Happiness in tone, style and content but it is unique in its characterisation of the purposeless ennui rampant in contemporary America.

Fully financed by New Line Cinema and featuring name actors like Kate Winslet and Jennifer Connelly, Little Children is nonetheless a specialised film unlikely to perform as well as In The Bedroom’s $36m domestic gross. The fact that few characters are sympathetic, or indeed that the most sympathetic character is a paedophile, will keep it firmly rooted in the arthouse arena, where it will develop a keen following thanks to very strong reviews and word-of-mouth among sophisticated audiences. It plays in the current rash of festivals at Deauville, Telluride and Toronto.

In awards terms, it’s difficult to single out any actor that could capture the attention of voters who tend to favour flamboyance in their performances. Although Winslet as a woman with an unhealthy disdain for her young daughter and Jackie Earle Haley as a simple-minded child molester are especially outstanding in this ensemble, their unshowy work as morally questionable characters might work against them. Field, on the other hand, could easily net writing and perhaps directing recognition.

He co-wrote the screenplay with Tom Perrotta on whose popular book it is based. Reduced in scale from the book, it is narrowed down to two main story strands in the Massachusetts community where it is set. First is the affair between disgruntled young housewife and mother Sarah Pierce (Winslet) and emasculated house-husband Brad Adamson (Wilson), a former jock whose wife Kathy (Connelly) is supporting him.

Then there’s Ronald James McGorvey (Haley), the paedophile recently released from prison who is back in the community and living with his loyal and supportive mother May (Somerville). A slightly unhinged local cop Larry Hedges (Emmerich) is on a mission to drive McGorvey out and has formed a group of concerned parents to draw attention to his presence.

Unlike In The Bedroom, Field opts to infuse the story with a stylised sense of the unreal, using a witty off-camera narration and a Sirkian palette of primary colours in which he drenches the neighbourhood. It’s an approach that renders the characters’s dilemmas as absurd as they are tragic, and lends the film an appropriately wry tone.

The film opens with Sarah and her daughter Lucy (Goldstein) sitting in the local playground with three other mothers and their kids. Sarah is obviously the odd one out, unkempt, undisciplined and more liberal than her well-heeled, self-righteous peers (Alvarado among them). She struggles to dote over her offspring as the others do and feels estranged from her maternal duties.

The women wait eagerly for the arrival of a handsome father whom they have dubbed “The Prom King” to arrive with his son. When he does, Sarah bets that she can engage him in conversation and, having done so, feels an instant connection to him and inadvertently kisses him.

Brad, it turns out, is struggling with the pressure foisted on him by his documentary film-maker wife and her family to pass the bar exams and become a lawyer. While unaware what he wants to do, he knows he doesn’t want to become a lawyer and instead of studying at the library, he sits and watches local kids skateboarding, longing for his teen years, when he probably was Prom King and ruled his high school.

Sarah, who has just discovered that her husband (Edelman) is an obsessive user of internet porn, and Brad start meeting at the swimming pool with their children and embark on a passionately physical affair which gives them both a raison d’etre in their complacent states.

Meanwhile Brad has joined a local football team as urged by Larry and goes on visits with Larry to McGorvey’s house where he helps Larry to harass him and his mother May.

All May wants is for Ronnie to settle back into normality and marry a good woman. But, as we witness from an incident at the local pool and a blind date, Ronald is far from capable of either reintegrating into society or normal sexual impulses.

As the film’s twin strands weave in and out of each other and build up towards a dramatic climax, Field builds a palpable sense of unease and dread in the playgrounds, streets and living rooms of his sterile suburbia. If the ending – which New Line is urging journalists to keep to themselves – is more moving than shocking, it is because he and Perrotta treat all the characters with compassion and do not attribute any hackneyed code of right and wrong to their actions.

As with In The Bedroom, the director takes his time telling the story, letting scenes run long and relationships develop. Winslet and Wilson are particularly good together as the married lovers reverting back into a childhood cocoon of zero responsibility and no need to dilute their own immediate needs.

Haley, a child actor in the 1970s most famous for The Bad News Bears and Breaking Away, gives a startling performance as the vilified Ronnie, an innocent of sorts, whose mental instability and anguish are illustrated sparingly but to devastating effect by the actor.

Emmerich is also fine as the damaged bully whose macho sense of self-righteousness ultimately has a monstrous impact. Only Connelly has little to get her teeth into as Kathy, although as always she acquits herself well in the role.

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Postby Sonic Youth » Mon Sep 04, 2006 7:13 pm

What a funny review. In the first paragraph, McCarthy says it's a very good movie, then tempers his praise all throughout. I don't think he liked it, but he doesn't seem confident enough to say so outright.



Little Children

By TODD MCCARTHY
Variety



Displaying many of the same qualities that distinguished Todd Field's debut feature, "In the Bedroom," "Little Children" is a deftly made, emotionally acute and at times a tad fastidious examination of cracks in middle-class American family life. Adroitly adapted from Tom Perrotta's fine and popular 2004 novel with every literary reference neatly in place, this New Line release about an affair between a married man and woman in a community troubled by the return of an unwelcome neighbor will tie many viewers, particularly women, up in knots, and should follow in the critically and commercially successful footsteps of its director's previous picture.

Literary feel is established at the outset by the dry, oh-so-faintly superior tone of the narration (commentary's faintly "Barry Lyndon"-ish quality shows it's not for nothing that Field acted for Stanley Kubrick and now employs as associate producer longtime Kubrick colleague Leon Vitali). What at first seems an apparent narrative crutch increases in amusement with abundance, to the point that it's missed when dropped through the long midsection.

[color=white]Dramatic attention alights upon four women watching their young children at a playground, three nattering types and one outsider, Sarah (Kate Winslet), a more pensive observer with little patience for extended discussion of toddler issues. The three cackling hens go into a dither at the arrival of a long-absent young father so dreamy they've dubbed him the Prom King. They've never dared speak to him as he's played with his little son, so Sarah delights in betting she can get his phone number. Instead, in a beautifully played scene that locks the viewer into the protags' story, they have a delicate, probing chat which ends with them briefly kissing in front of the children and other women.

There's no doubt where this is going, but it takes a while getting there. Through the hot summer, Sarah and the clean-cut jock (Patrick Wilson) whose name is Brad (changed from Todd in the book, perhaps by a director uncomfortable with too many Todds around) meet with their respective kids amid hundreds of other similar folk at the large community pool. Gradually, their dissatisfaction with their superficially contented lives seep to the surface. Sarah has a master's degree in English lit and never imagined herself as a suburban mom married to a successful businessman (Gregg Edelman), especially one she's just walked in on pleasuring himself to the Slutty Kay Web site with a pair of panties adorning his face like a gas mask.

Brad, married to a striking PBS documentary filmmaker, Kathy (Jennifer Connelly), is unenthusiastically anticipating taking the bar exam for the third time; when he's supposedly studying nights at the library, he's instead hanging with skateboarders or practicing for the police football team with his ex-cop buddy Larry (Noah Emmerich).

Another guy with too much downtime, Larry with boorish zeal leads the local protest against the return home of a convicted sex offender, Ronald James McGorvey. Latter is very effectively played by Jackie Earle Haley, a teen standout in "The Bad News Bears" and "Breaking Away" absent from the bigscreen for 23 years; he's also in the upcoming "All the King's Men." A creepy, ferrety-looking man, McGorvey freaks out the moms one day by jumping in among the kids at the public pool.

Principal attention naturally remains on the central couple, who 55 minutes in begin coupling in sweaty but, at least for the viewer, unerotic frenzies during the day when their spouses are away and their kids are napping. All goes well until the two unadvisedly decide to dine together with their respective spouses, when a slip of the tongue confirms Kathy's suspicions.

Still, the pic spends an unexpected amount of time with ex-con Ronald, whose doting mother (the wonderful Phyllis Somerville) encourages him to date again. This leads to a startlingly tender, if ultimately dismaying, dinner scene between Ronald and the emotionally damaged Sheila (Jane Adams, terrific), and Ronald's path eventually comes to cross those of the other characters in a way that will have most mothers in the audience cringing.


Like "In the Bedroom," "Little Children," at well over two hours, is somewhat long for an intense, intimate drama, and arguments could run many ways concerning what could be tightened or excised. More than one TV newscast goes on at length, a docu interview Kathy conducts with the son of an Iraq war casualty seems notably dragged in, the football sessions are indulged and a women's book club meeting devoted to "Madame Bovary" requires Sarah to address the issue of adultery in an almost absurdly on-point manner. At the same time, it could legitimately be said that all these scenes are good, and enrich the overall texture of the film.

Although Sarah is a conflicted, contemplative woman, she's not particularly hard to read, meaning she's not the most fascinating character Winslet has played of late. Appealing but glammed down to suit her domestic domain, the thesp anchors the film with a strong, intelligent performance. Wilson fills the bill as the handsome Peter Pan who has yet to grapple with the challenge of supporting a family, although the character could have used a hint of an edgy undercurrent or the suggestion of anxiety about his future.

Respective spouses are somewhat shortchanged, as one never learns what makes Connelly's Kathy tick and Edelman as Sarah's husband completely disappears for long stretches, to the point where one mistakenly imagines he's been banished by his wife. One curious detail is Brad's complaint that Sarah's eyebrows are thicker than he likes, when Connelly, as his supposed physical ideal, has the thickest eyebrows of any woman around.

Pic's craftsmanship reps a step forward from "In the Bedroom," with Antonio Calvache's lensing and David Gropman's production design helping create a comfy everyday feel just waiting to be infected by the untoward actions of the characters. Tale is specifically set in East Wyndam, Mass., but was filmed in New York.[/color]
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