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"Little Children" with Kate Winslet

"Little Children"; A Review by Gary Chew

GARY CHEW/Sacramento

"Little Children" is an ironic title. It's about grown-ups who live their lives like little children. These adults have little children of their own. The kids are who bring the principal characters together as they watch over their respective offspring at play in a verdant playground of a Massachusetts suburb.

Sarah (Kate Winslet) is an intellectual locked in the role of homemaker. Brad (Patrick Wilson) would be a lawyer if he could just pass the bar exam. Sarah's husband (Greg Edelman) is a successful professional who gets more from looking at pornography than making love to Sarah. Brad has a beautiful wife (Jennifer Connelly) who is gainfully employed as a documentary filmmaker with a less than robust libido. Brad is a house husband and stays home with his son; Sarah, the same, except she has a little girl. It all begins at the teeter-totter with consummation in Sarah's basement on her automatic washer.

Patrick Wilson and Kate Winslet
Patrick Wilson and Kate Winslet

Yes, the list is almost endless of motion pictures that set up much like this for another slog through the exigencies and consequences of marital infidelity. But you haven't seen a movie about adultery like "Little Children." Each character (less so Connelly's) shows immaturity and poor judgement while in the act of being a parent. Yet, the powerful emotions that accompany what a mother or father holds for her/his children are brought to bear on a suburban backdrop that also reveals how catty mommies can be, what awful jocks daddies can be and how such attitudes play out against the lives of two other men: one, a former cop; the other: an ex-con just returning to the neighborhood after serving time for child molestation.

Jennifer Connelly

Jennifer Connelly

Todd Field is the director of "Little Children." (He had a real winner in 2001 with "In the Bedroom," which received seven Academy Award nominations.) Field and Tom Perrotta wrote the script which comes from Perrotta's novel.

Director Field has turned in another stunning and edgy film about families up close, dealing with their own internal dynamic of emotions intersected by violence. Yet, the script is so well done that it includes many real moments for laughter as we follow the struggles of the finely drawn characters. Winslet gives her best performance; it's in tandem with the lesser-known Wilson, who was a standout as the young gay Mormon in HBO's "Angels in America" (reviewed here by Chew). Connelly is more grounded and straight ahead in her role, and has never looked more beautiful in a film.

Another treat is the score. Thomas Newman did it. The music fits the story like a glove. Stay through the closing scroll of credits and listen to a piece by Newman that I could only describe as sounding Baroque, yet, obviously, written in this century. I'd like to download that one, play it on a classical radio station and see if the phones ring.

Special recognition should go to Jackie Earle Haley, recently seen as Sugar in the new version of "All The King's Men" (reviewed here by Chew). Haley, a child actor grown up, gives a tour de force as the mentally disturbed Ronnie. And Phyllis Somerville should be kept in mind for some kind of award in the role of Ronnie's elderly mother. Frequent viewers of PBS will recognize the mellow baritone of Will Lyman, the narrator. You've heard him before on "Frontline."

Phyllis Somerville and Jackie Earle Haley

Oh yes. "Little Children" is just for us grownups---not even big children.

"Little Children" official site.
Now playing at the AMC Southroads 20.
See Yahoo Movies for Tulsa theaters & times.
Gary Chew can be reached at garychew@comcast.net
Copyright © 2007, Gary Chew. All rights reserved.

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