27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
The way director Todd Field handles human sexuality in this movie reminds me a bit of the way Todd Solondz handled it in Happiness (1998). There are the same starkly realistic depictions of a variety of human desires, lusts and cravings with perhaps an emphasis on what devotees of the missionary position might call "perversions." Although not quite as wild as Solondz's film, Little Children is equally challenging to politically correct notions of sexuality.
Kate Winslet stars as Sarah Pierce, a suburban mom who has a Master's in English lit and a husband who finds sex in cyber space more satisfying than sex with her. She joins (at a slight distance) some other more conventional suburban moms at the local playground where they sit around and talk while watching their children play. One of the things the women talk about is Brad Adamson (Patrick Wilson), who is a handsome stay at home dad who has twice fluked the bar exam. He takes care of his son while his high powered wife Kathy (Jennifer Connelly) is busy bringing home the bacon. The women don't talk to him. They watch him warily but with keen interest and call him "the prom king." When Sarah catches her husband having sex with his computer (so to speak) she resolves to gain the Prom King for herself, partly out of sheer romantic lust and partly out of revenge.
While we watch the adulterous union unfold, we are given some perspective in the form of Ronnie J. McGorvey (played with appropriate creepiness by Jackie Earle Haley) who has just been released from prison after serving a term for exposing himself to children. A side complication arrives in the form of Larry Hedges (Noah Emmerich), who is a "retired" cop with a temper management problem and a tendency to find objects of hate onto which to direct his anger. Ronnie the pervert becomes his target.
All this seems...well, unremarkable and even tiresome except for the fact that everybody in the movie is flawed in some very serious and interesting way, and director Field's interpretation of the characters comes down resolutely on the side of the nonconventional. In some respects what Field and Tom Perrotta, who wrote the novel from which he and Field adapted the screenplay, are saying is that the characters are all little children (hence the title). And not only that, but we're all a bit perverse. It just depends on your point of view. Sarah's parenting skills are less than optimal and it's obvious that she is bored with being a stay at home mom. Her "perversion" is similar to Gustav Flaubert's Madame Bovary in that she wants more out of life than being a wife and mother. She wants, as she explains to the woman's book club, what Madame Bovary wanted, to satisfy "the hunger - the hunger for an alternative and the refusal to accept a life of unhappiness."
Brad wants to remain a child, being taken care of by his wife, while he pretends to study for the bar exam but instead plays touch football and watches the boys at the skateboard park as though a boy himself, or allows himself to be seduced by Sarah.
Ronnie wants to have sex with little girls, and Sarah's husband wants to have sex with a porn star--or perhaps they just want to masturbate to fantasies of same...and so on.
What makes this an excellent movie is first of all Kate Winslet who continues to prove she can play a wide variety of characters and get into their skin and become them as she has done in so many films. She brings the nuances of Sarah Pierce's character, her strengths and weaknesses, to life in a vivid and compelling way that forces us to identify with her, much the same way we identify with Madame Bovary.
Also first rate is the unflinching way human sexuality is presented and the refusal to accept conventionality that is the heart of this story. I think that directors Todd Field and Todd Solondz may be working in a new genre for the 21st century that might be called "sexual realism." Perhaps it is just a coincidence but both directors had Jane Adams play a kind of forlorn wallflower at the game of life in both movies. Perhaps she symbolizes in some strange way the confused, frustrated and deeply masked phenomenon that is human sexuality.
The real essence of the film is contained in the scene in which Ronnie enters the pool with all the children playing in it and the moms in the lounge chairs watching. Suddenly Sarah becomes aware that Ronnie the pervert is in the pool and then all the other moms become aware. There is a mass hysteria and a mass exit from the pool by the children. The moms are horrified and are desperate to know, "Did he touch you?" Ronnie is seen as some kind of bug-like creature who somehow will bring a contagion upon them through his touch. The point here and indeed throughout the film (and also in Solondz's film) is that we overreact to sex that offends us. We find the touch of a creepy pedophile worse than some kind of physical violence.
This is a thesis that will not find acceptance in America for many years to come if ever because sexual perversity is more threatening to most Americans than extreme violence. Why this should be so is not really a mystery. But to explain it here is beyond the scope of this review, and anyway explaining it would hardly change it. However the fact that Field and Solandz are bringing it to our attention is something new and is perhaps the beginning of a challenge to conventional morality.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Tom Perrotta novel Little Children has been adapted for screen. Tom Fields takes to the directors chair for this black comedy which brings us viewers into a world of suburban secrets, sexual paranoia and midlife crisis where damaged self-esteem hangs by a thread and acts of desperation begins to unfold. While the films does provide laughs there are also plenty of shocks with serious factors while the grown-ups try to save their own lives and sense of worth, protection for their own young children will never fail them, as an even bigger fear hangs over a whole community a sex offender is in their mists.
A narrator talks us through the bigger picture letting us know the characters deeper thoughts and feelings and shifting viewpoints. (Kate Winslet) plays Sarah a women with a small daughter, her husband is a marketing executive and also a secret enthusiast of internet porn. Sarah had felt for sometime disenchanted with everything, her life, husband and the uptight small minded moms at the towns playground, she'd fallen into just marking time. Sarah deliberately strikes up a flirtatious friendship with Brad (Patrick Wilson) a stay at home dad known by the other playground moms as Prom King.
Brad is caught up in his own failures of life, hoping to become a lawyer but had so far failed his bar exam twice. His beautiful wife (Jennifer Connelly) had her own career success and he feels inferior just living in her shadow. Uncertain of what he wants Brad keeps his day busy, looking after their young son, he also joins the campaign against the local pedophile. Brad and Sarah friendship has profound disorientation for both; yet it's also their salvation, a curiosity, a fresh excitement, needing each others company just to feel alive!
Strange mix of love and hate going on in this film, the title, Little Children doesn't just refer to the young, instead applies to all ages. All characters show there childlike vulnerability. The pedophile Ronald McGorvey (Jackie Haley) being the prime example portraying him in this film as childlike and living with his mother, trying to bring a sympathetic side to a much-hated character, which was always going to be a tall order for any actor to pull off. But Jackie Haley does put in a powerful performance quite a few haunting scenes like when his lowering himself into the children's shallows of a packed pool with mask and flippers in tow causing complete panic and another scene where his mother sets him up on a dinner date, the results are just halloweeny; creepy and an excruciating embarrassment for all.
Summing up : Great Casting; all performances were strong Kate Winslet marvelous performance in this beautiful shot film. It ticks over nicely scene by scene, the narrator voice for me was the most annoying part, I found it far too monotone. overall It's a film about private addictions, secrecy and denials; enjoyable dark comedy, I'd give it three and a half stars; worth watching.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
There are some excellent scenes in this film - an examination of children of various ages; the local paedophile snorkels in the town pool and clears it in moments, there is a the strange first date conversation of two damaged people, desperate housewife Kate Winslet makes a move on the playground's fantasy hearthrob and suburban aging housewives discuss Madame Bovary in their book group. If the whole film was as coherent as those scenes then this would be a five star movie.
The full time child carers Sarah (Kate Winslet) and Brad (Patrick Wilson) start an affair and while away the summer. It's as if they are 'playing house' while their adult partners do their jobs. Brad seeks his lost youth in football, skateboarding and leisurely adulterous afternoons and asks his wife for a cellphone. Scholarly Sarah - who seems to have settled for a man she didn't love - struggles towards the perfect life she doesn't seem to have felt she deserved before. The sex scenes are good - sensual and with the sense of living in the moment.
The mother of Ronnie, the 'local pervert' is robust in defense of her son who is the subject of a hate campaign by an emotionally damaged ex cop. Ronnie is sympathetic as somebody's child - their scenes are genuinely poignant and moving.
So what doesn't work? The narration is nicely done but I don't see the value of it when it's simply describing what is being more than adequately acted. The contrast between 'beautiful' Jennifer Connelly and 'frumpy' Kate Winslet isn't there and so doesn't make Sarah's insecurities about her looks, or why she married the two dimensionable Richard, that credible. For me, the end was a bit forced in all story lines.....but the film is well acted and paced and just misses being very good indeed.
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
This isn't a bad film at all - in fact it has moments of genius. But ultimately Little Children yearns to be something it isn't. The source novel by Tom Perrotta is great in a breezy, colloquial way, with occasional moments of real insight that strike home all the harder for being less expected. Todd Field's cinematic take on it, however, has pretensions all of its own. Once in a while I'll watch a film that could really use a voice-over (The Handmaid's Tale for instance) because there's simply no other way of getting across the true beauty or the impact of the original novel. But in the case of Little Children the booming narrator is basically just an affectation. Something to give it an artier edge, maybe, a quirkiness or a gravitas that Field thought the film might otherwise be lacking? Gimmicks like these are a popular technique when the story alone isn't quite cohesive enough. Whereas the novel segues smoothly from inside the mind of one character to another this is less well achieved on screen, and it does seem bitty occasionally. Not to mention long-winded. The film really plods sometimes, whereas the novel moves at a cracking pace for the most part. And Todd Field is the DH Lawrence of the film world - a man without a humorous bone in his body. Little Children has 'take me seriously' emblazoned across it in neon sky-high letters. Yawn.
As for the cast, Patrick Wilson is kind of good as the bewildered-looking former jock led astray by boredom and testosterone. Kate Winslet is the one everyone raves about, but there's something annoyingly mannered about her performance, including that smooth American drawl perfected to within an inch of its life. She definitely looks less ravishing than usual, but physically she and Wilson aren't quite as mismatched as they're meant to be. Jennifer Connelly's perfectly fine as documentary-maker Kathy, but she must have been twiddling her thumbs a lot on set. Her wafer-thin role mostly involves demonstrating how much longer her legs are than Kate Winslet's.
The film comes alive in its less comfortable moments, nothing to do with the starrier cast members at all. Another plot follows convicted paedophile Ronnie McGorvey, released into an increasingly hostile community and hounded by the slightly-unhinged Larry, himself a defrocked cop. A scene at the town pool is so skillfully handled that your major feeling for McGorvey is sympathy, while a shocking episode involving a blind date turns everything on its head again. It's a complex portrayal, and brilliantly acted, although Field suddenly goes for the jugular with a melodramatic ending (not in the book) that smacks of shock tactics. The fate of the other characters gets sewn up in an equally unrealistic way. Hence the three stars, when it should really have been four.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 23 June 2007
I have to say that while in some ways it was a disturbing story; it was also very touching in a lot of ways. The first thing one will notice about the film will be the mood set via the lighting, and then of course the narrator Will Lyman, who is often used in documentaries but at times can be annoying. As a viewer you are immediately drawn into this storybook like atmosphere in a non-traditional storybook sort of setting and the quirkiness and underlying humor keeps you hooked.
I also felt these actors had such depth and character, either you could relate or want to speak too and have some sort of relationship with. "Little Children" overflows with meaningful lives. You will come to fine out everyone struggles in this slice of modern suburbia. Sarah (Kate Winslett) is a housewife and a mother who has lost a little something in her life, passion, while her husband (Gregg Edelman) is messing around on the internet; she meets the "prom king" of the block, Brad, and has a deep passionate affair with him. But there is a problem, Brad (Patrick Wilson) is also married with a child as well, but their affair and love is too strong to ignore when they realize that they are what were missing in each other's lives, or are they just a fantasy they needed to fulfill? There is another character in this film named Ronnie (Jackie Earle Haley), who had a horrible reputation after exposing himself to a minor and is snubbed by the committee, but the only love of his life is his mother (incredibly talented Phyllis Somerville) who is constantly trying to get an ex cop harasser (Noah Emmerich) off her son's back.
This film had some terrific performances; I was completely convinced by everyone, particularly Kate Winslet and Patrick Wilson, who made a wonderful couple. The support cast, though great, didn't have a lot to work with, particularly Jennifer Connelly, as Brads wife, who did well with what she had. The children were effective and very cute. I was also very impressed by the brave perspective director Todd Field took towards sexual deviants who have served their time, showing that they are unduly victimized for almost the rest of their existence. In fact, the storyline between Ronnie and Larry, and the small offshoots, were the best part of the film, and very well done.
"Little Children" is an incredibly touching film; the ending was so beautiful and really brought true closure to the story. This is one of the best recent American films of our time, I would highly recommend it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 11 July 2009
Perrotta's script, based on his own novel, sets out to explore some emotive themes: marriage and fidelity; sexual mores; fear, anger, and confusion caused by the reintroduction of sex offenders into the community. For the most part he does this with wit, charm, and intelligence. But the tale of the two married couples at the centre of the plot never really interweaves with that of the released sex offender; at least not until the end of the film. For most of the movie we see the two stories side by side. This leads to a feeling that these themes have been artificially juxtaposed; a feeling which is reinforced by the unconvincing turn of events in the final scenes. Although the film is impeccably produced, and the performances are universally good, the end result is less insightful than the producers clearly believe it to be.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 8 July 2009
Quite similar in a way to Revolutionary Road in which Kate Winslet also appears; the plot follows the flawed lives of several individuals whose paths briefly cross. Kate Winslet plays a deeply disaffected housewife who sees a possible out in the handsome father who takes his child to the same park.
The film doesn't seem very believable are we expected to believe that Winslet's character wouldn't comment on her husand whacking off to porn with her used pants on his head. Likewise wouldn't Jennifer Connelly's character say something to her partner about her suspicions of the new female best friend.
The film as a whole is worth viewing for Kate Winslet's disaffected housewife interesting to see how much further she has come as an actress with her performance in Revolutionary Road.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 30 January 2007
I saw this film because I'd heard that Kate Winslet's performance was worth an admission ticket on its own, the film gave me so much more, its moving, disturbing and funny all at once with a great supporting actor aswell.
Little Children centers on a group of young marrieds, whose lives intersect on the playgrounds, town pools and streets of their small community in surprising and potentially dangerous ways. Also an ex-paedophile has just moved in on the street.
The main storyline in Little Children that is my favourite is the ex-paedophile story, with his struggle to deal with all the hat surrounding him whilst his mother trys to stick up for him, Jackie Earle Haley is superb as the confused Ronny who will do anything for his mother. This storyline is fantastic and I feel it isnt used enough as Winslet & Wilson's story dominates the screen. Which even though Winslet exceeds in, performing her heart out, Wilson lacks the energy factor and seemsovershadowed by his cast members.
Little Children has extreme moments of powerfulness yet scenes of pointlessness, however I wish Winslet the best of luck at the oscars and maybe Little Children might earn a couple of other nods too.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 11 January 2009
Without the narration, this could have been a 4 star film, but I found having the bloody obvious stated for me throughout both annoying and patronising.
I imagine most people who choose to watch this film are capable of assessing each scene and character and of drawing their own conclusions. The acting was of a high enough standard not to warrant that voice explaining each character's every thought.
Kate Winslet can tell a story with one single facial expression - she is an incredibly talented actress and it's a shame she and the rest of the cast weren't allowed to just get on with the job.
It was still a good film though - just not as good as it could easily have been.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 1 September 2007
An unexpectedly good film. After reading other reviews and downloading a trailer of the film I was expecting something rather different. This is an excellent film and should be regarded as a small triumph in its own way. The sub plots and development of certain key characters are the main reasons why you become hooked. It's definitely a film to watch in one go, with no distractions, probably best on your own and with an open mind. At times you do not know which way it is heading but at others it becomes quite predicatable. What is unnerving is that it is slightly fascinating and worrying in places - you become fascinated with the characters and worried that you are "enjoying" it all so much. Stick with it and you will see that it is a much better film than you may think at the start.