By Al Kratina
Jan 7, 2007 - 11:17
In fact, the film has a lot in common with Desperate Housewives, every woman's favorite show and every boyfriend's guilty pleasure. They both take place in suburbia, they both have strangely comic narration, and they both deal with a dark underbelly that’s portrayed not as seamy, but rather as human. And that's the strength of Little Children; its humanity. The film doesn't judge its subjects, and in fact its tone verges on condoning their quirks, foibles, and flaws, as well as their colossal mistakes. And mistakes, the characters do make. Kate Winslet plays a mother with a an adulteress, and our hero. Another storyline features a convicted pedophile whose release into the community sparks outrage in the neighborhood. Played by Jackie Earl Haley, the character evokes just the right mix of disgust and pathos in the viewer, a balance that, with the exception of Kevin Bacon in The Woodsman and Paris Hilton in life, is very rarely successfully maintained. The key to this film is that there are no villains, only flawed characters, and that makes for more realistic subject matter that’s more relevant than most films.
Which is not to say that Little Children is a realist film. It's a simple story, really, about love and forgiveness, and all the stuff that make Hollywood films broadly popular, but along with the script, there are some nice formal touches that elevate it. The voice-over narration, also reminiscent of American Beauty, has a strange, unearthly feel to it. The omniscience of the voice-over, coupled with a narrator sounding not unlike Wilfred Brimley with a snootful, make it seem like someone's grandfather reading a fairy tale out loud. I wouldn't exactly call this a bedtime story for adults, but the narration does have a certain otherworldly atmosphere that contrasts nicely with the sometimes-dark events of the story. Director/co-writer Todd Field, who made In The Bedroom before gaining superstardom as Ol' Drippy on Aqua Teen Hunger Force, doesn't break any new ground with this film, as the comparisons to Desperate Housewives and American Beauty would suggest. But still, Little Children is a refreshing change that reminds us that films don't have to be straightforward to be simple, and don't have to be somber to be serious.
Rating: 9 /10