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Little Children

Outstanding Suburban Satire

Little Children might just be the best movie you've never heard of. It's only opening in one theater in the Bay Area and yet it carries the kind of star quality available to huge Hollywood productions. There's very little marketing and thus minimal buzz going around. This is a shame really, since it's one of the best movies of the fall season if not the year.

Directed and adapted to the screen by Todd Field (In the Bedroom) and based on the novel by Tom Perrotta (Election), Little Children is in turns a drama, a love story and a laugh-out-loud comedy. This does not make it schizophrenic as all three elements are well balanced.

Talented, bookish and youthful Sarah Pierce (Kate Winslet) somehow finds herself amidst a Boston suburb rife with gossiping über-moms. While she herself has a young daughter and is a stay-at-home mother, she definitely does not fit in. Her situation begs the question: how did she end up there? Thankfully, a hunky dad, Brad Adamson
(Patrick Wilson) dubbed "the Homecoming King" by the other moms, shows up to mix things up.

Brad also doesn't quite fit it. He's supposed to be studying for the bar exam, which he is taking for the third time, but can't actually muster up the desire to study. Instead he takes cares of his young son during the day and watches the local teenaged boys skate at night while his wife, Kathy (the lovely Jennifer Connelly), works as a documentary producer. Theirs is not the happiest of arrangements. However, after he meets Sarah and joins a football league, things starts changing.

Throughout this, there is another equally strong storyline revolving around a recently released pedophile, Ronald James McGorvey (Jackie Earle Haley in an award-winning performance), who now lives with his doting mother (Phyllis Somerville) in the neighborhood, triggering a slew of fear and rage in the community, particularly in Larry Hedges (Noah Emmerich), a retired police officer and player on Brad's football league

On top of all this is a mysterious narrator who acts as a Greek chorus providing humor and insight into the characters. Indeed these parts are the film's funniest, particularly one scene which is narrated as if it were the HBO series "Inside the NFL". It also serves to bind Little Children to its literary roots. Unfortunately, there is gap after the second half of the movie where the voice suddenly disappears only to return inexplicably towards the end of the film.

Likewise, there are one or two storylines that are quite compelling but which are dropped and never followed through. However, these are the movie's only discernable flaws. The cast is incredible and Fields does an astounding job translating the novel to film. The result is superb, powerful and funny.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars