Community Relations Manager
KUNV 91.5 FM
University of Nevada Las Vegas
It’s hard not to compare Little Children to American Beauty; both expose the
underbelly of suburban life, both feature narration throughout, and both
have a stellar cast. However, the slow, quiet dialogue and relatively
uneventful plot of Little Children makes American Beauty seem like a lively
comedy by comparison.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved Little Children, but it can’t be compared to
American Beauty even though that’s what everybody seems to want to do. I
can’t bring myself to do it, they’re just too different.
Little Children is based on the Tom Perotta
novel of the same name, and it seems to be pretty accurate to the book, at
least for the first half (I can’t tell you how accurate the second half is,
I can’t seem to find the time to finish the novel after trying for a year).
The characters in the movie are just how I envisioned them in the book: Kate
Winslet plays a smart, slightly homely frustrated mother, Patrick Wilson
plays a discontent father struggling to rediscover his youth, and Jackie
Earle Haley plays a sex offender who has recently moved back into their
I thought the casting was great, and my
favorite member of the cast wasn’t even credited – the narrator who comes
and goes throughout the film has more lines than all of the characters
combined, but I had to do some real research to find out who he was. Turns
out, it’s Will Lyman, the guy who narrates the PBS Nova programs. Perhaps
his background is what made the film seem so much like a voyeuristic
The storyline is slow, and not a whole lot
happens until the end. Basically, Winslet’s character (Sarah Pierce) and
Barnes’ character (Brad Adamson) begin an affair. Both face moral questions
when it comes to their spouses, their children and their careers. Their
affair almost becomes a subplot in comparison to that of Haley’s character
(Ronnie J. McGorvey). When McGorvey is released from prison after being
convicted of exposing himself to young children, he is under close watch
from “The Committee of Concerned Parents” and has to try and start all over
again when it comes to a relationship with his mother, his love life, and
being part of his community.
Despite his weasley appearance and sordid
past, I found myself really feeling sympathetic for the McGorvey character.
Sure, he made mistakes, but people in the neighborhood do some pretty awful
things to him. It was refreshing to see a film that portrayed a sex offender
as a human being instead of an emotionless monster. In the same light, Brad
and Sarah’s affair is met with understanding from the audience, but not from
What really set this film apart for me was
the lighting, the long takes, and the lush scenery. The film was shot all
over the East Coast (Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York) and is
set in the summer time, so I felt overwhelmed by all the greenery. I could
physically feel the humidity and the heaviness, and the lighting added a
little bit of complexity to the scenes. Borrowing a term from the world of
art, the lighting was very “Caravaggisti,” as in there are no outside
influences, and the darkness around the brightly lit subjects create a sort
of bubble around them.
I have one word of warning about this film,
and for some it can be seen as a criticism, but I actually enjoyed this part
of the movie. I could see how many would be bothered by it though. My
warning is this: make sure you’re not tired or distracted before you see
this film. The plot is almost painfully slow, and again, I enjoyed it, but I
did hear some snores coming from the back aisles. If you’re not turned off
by a slower approach to filmmaking or storytelling, and you like to read
between the lines, then you’ll really love Little Children.