Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Little Children: Grade A


Little Children (2006)

Kate Winslet, Jennifer Connelly, Patrick Wilson. Director & co-writer: Todd Field

In this extremely well-written movie, Winslet is an unhappily married, affluent suburbanite who takes her toddler to the park and mingles with stereotypical suburban moms and their young children. The anthropological satire is biting, highlighted by voice-over from that deep-voiced guy who narrates PBS documentaries like Frontline. But it's a one-off joke, a result of having two writers. This is not really a comedy. Stay-at-home dad Wilson appears in the park with his toddler and he and Winslet strike up a conversation leading to a passionate adulterous relationship. She justifies her own behavior in a reading group discussing Madame Bovary. She describes Bovary as refusing to settle for a life of unhappiness regardless of circumstances or consequences. Wilson is a simple minded jock who cannot pass the bar exam, and is alienated from his beautiful, intelligent, high-achieving wife, Connelly. The adulterers would risk their lives, social status, families – everything – just to have sex on the washing machine or in the attic. What sense does that make? Sexual desire overcomes reason and responsibility. Meanwhile, there is a sexual predator living in the neighborhood, generating remarks among the characters about what should be done to him. The predator’s urges do not make sense either, but at least he knows he is slave to them, a self-awareness the other characters lack. We almost feel sympathetic toward the adulterers until we (led by Winslet) suddenly see how selfish and blind they have been. The ending is rushed, leaving us on our own to consider the meaning of what happens. The acting is riveting and whoever did the casting should get an award. Winslet confronts the camera honestly, without makeup in some scenes. Costumes, sets, and dialogs are perfect. This is an unblinking look at adult psychological development.

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