A pedophile and a red-hot affair don’t really mix.
Two stay-at-home parents (Patrick Wilson and Kate Winslet) both end up striking affair after they both realize how bored they are with their own actual lives at home. Then another story happens where a convicted sex offender (Jackie Earle Haley) moves back into his house and is soon harassed by almost every person he sees.
This is the sophomore effort from writer/director Todd Field, who some will remember from the big-smash he made back in 2001 with ‘In the Bedroom’. Somehow, he took that similar story mixed it with some ‘American Beauty’ satire and divided it with a hint of ‘The Woodsman’, then he got this crazy flick.
The film starts off very strong with these two immature parents who obviously don’t know what to do with their lives except just nag each other and hope that all their depression and angst goes away. I dug this beginning because the film showed these characters in a very interesting light while also focusing on the fact that it’s telling us that these adults are just like kids in some ways, they both forget the responsibilities they have in the world and they go with their gut-feeling rather than just using their heads.
A lot of people complained about the whole narrator from PBS thing so much that when I heard it in this film, I couldn’t say that I was too bothered. Yeah, he does spell out everything a little too much but there are times when his narration actually makes a lot of this moments in this film a lot more entertaining then they have any right to be. It seems as if he is reading a children’s story to us, like one of those audio-tapes you would get for a book if you didn’t know how to read, and it really divides the line between what’s funny and what’s sad in this film. I found myself laughing at some of the things that the narrator was saying, while others, I didn’t know how to feel.
The main problem that lies within this film is that it is very very messy because it constantly shifts back-and-forth between these two stories and they shouldn’t be in the same film together either really. There would be moments where the film would just focus on the suburbanites and their affair for a very long period of time, and then randomly go to the peddy without any real reason other than to show this dude who has obvious problems. Both stories are pretty interesting in their own rights but together, they can’t really share the same screen considering that after awhile the “affair story” becomes the same thing over-and-over again whereas the “pedophile story” becomes a lot more interesting as the time goes on. I think I would have rather watched two different films of these stories rather than just one because it wouldn’t have been so messy.
I do think Field as a writer is very talented but there are times where I think he loses himself with trying to be too smart, which I know is a weird thing to say but just bare with me peeps.. There are moments here when Wilson and Winslet are getting it on and Winslet will constantly ask him, “Is she pretty?”, she meaning his wife. She doesn’t only just ask this once but also many other times during whoopie and this to me seemed very unbelievable as some chick would just constantly ask the dude who’s mounting her about his own wife. There are also plenty of other moments where this film doesn’t feel all that realistic but not worth mentioning.
Everything with this film is all pretty messy until the last act, where the film really loses itself with the shock-o-riffic ending that seems more put-on than anything. I don’t want to give anything away really but I think Field tried a little too hard to convey these certain types of emotions for these characters to the point of where this ending came up, and it probably looked good on paper, but when it came to actually filming it up on the screen, it seemed very dumb.
The cast is very good though despite all of these other problems with the film. Kate Winslet is great as the conflicted house-wife, Sarah, and Patrick Wilson has never been more charming or conflicted as Brad. Jennifer Connelly is good as Brad’s wife, Kathy, but I wish there was more of her that gave more of her side on things. Granted, we get a scene here and there but I really did feel like her character could have done a lot more for this film if they included her just a little bit more considering Connelly is such a good actress as well.
The best out of the bunch though is probably Jackie Earle Haley as the pedophile who plays up that man-child act so well that it’s almost too hard to hate this guy when he’s being such a dirt-ball. I mean yeah, he’s a dirty dude that I would never have over for dinner around my kids but he’s also a very troubled soul that wants nothing more but to be accepted once again and feels the need to fit in, mainly because his mommy says so. Haley is great here and just by looking at him, you get the sense that this is a sad and tormented soul.
Consensus: Little Children has some good elements, such as its good acting and very strong beginning, but then starts to fall apart with being too repetitive, too unbelievable, and just by having two different stories that don’t really mesh all that well in the same film.