“’What does your husband do for a living?’ ‘He lies.’” This exchange between two of the main stars of the film “Little Children” seems to sum up the overall theme of the picture. The idea of deception being most prevelant in suburbia is the main focus of this Oscar contender. With an all star cast, deep meanings, it is the making of Oscar gold, only it comes off as very slow and has characters you can’t always seem to root for.
“Little Children” revolves around young mother Sarah played by Kate Winslet and Brad played by Patrick Wilson. Sarah raises her daughter alone since her husband works while hiding his own demons, and Brad is a stay at home father studying for the Bar exam while his wife jet sets to make documentaries. When the two lonely parents meet at the local park, and eventually start an affair it leads their lives into a tailspin. This also coincides with the release of a pedophile into their quiet neighborhood.
The film itself is perfect at setting up the suburban feel. One can watch this movie and recognize people in their own communities. Many suburban housewives will recognize the woman who organizes the snacktime, or the group of friends who simultaneously take their children to the park. The film makes a point of showing how all the women are similair, and show how bad Sarah sticks out. When Brad shows up the women label him “The Prom King.” The film also does a good job of showing a stay at home father, and what happens when the wife is the one bringing home the bacon. The pedophile backstory, one would think would be the main focus of the film, but it is actually secondary showing the underlying meaning that while a pedophile has secrets that are out in the open, the worse secrets are the ones within a sleepy little town.
The characters may be well written, but its very hard to root for any of the characters. There are also a lot of moments that abruptly take you out of the story. There is narration that shows up, describing things you could see for yourself, and then it stops only to show up again. Also there is a moment where they describe Brad’s wife but take her out of the scene and analyze her. These jarring moments really take you out of the action and you have to reorient yourself.
The actors and actresses though are top notch. Kate Winslet delivers another fine performance as Sarah. While the makeup department tried extremely hard to make her plain, she has a beauty that just shows no matter what. Patrick Wilson gives a fine performance as Brad although he just is a very “pretty” stay at home father. The finest performances come from the child predator played by Jackie Earle Haley and the cop trying to protect the community played by Noah Emmerich. These two characters have amazing chemistry and their story is amazingly compelling. Sadly, Jennifer Connelly seems to be wasted in this film. Her character is incredibly bland and spends all her time watching her child sleep.
While “Little Children” is a fine film in and of itself, I just didn’t feel it was amazing. The performances are great, the story is compelling, but there was just something missing. Watch the film and judge for yourself, maybe it’s the idea that all you have to do is look out your window and the themes of “Little Children” are right in your own front yard.