Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Little Children

"Little Children" (Todd Field, 2006) One I've been wanting to see but avoiding. Again, bad decision. Todd Field has the spirit of Kubrick in him (Field, as an actor, worked on "Eyes Wide Shut" and Kubrick subjected him to "the drill" about his first film, "In the Bedroom"--"Why do you want to make that? What can you bring to it? How can you tell your story more compellingly? Is it worth doing, though?")--but Fields, is a far looser director, and with a much more sure sense of humor, though it was missing in "Bedroom." That razor-like humor helps in this story of a neighborhood not coping well with a convicted sex offender in their midst (he's a flasher). Everyone is on the critical edge of everyday panic and with an aversion to complacency, so everyone seems determined to see how far they can push the envelope before things come crashing around their ears. There is an air of clinical observation to the film that is cruel and humorous, though, for the characters portrayed, everything is of deadly earnest and has complex consequences. And its use of Will Lyman is brilliant. Uniformly the cast is excellent with Kate Winslet, Patrick Wilson (he had the least showy role in HBO's "Angels in America" as the closeted conservative), Jennifer Connelly (restrained and never better), and particularly Jackie Earle Haley as the flasher. Absent from movies for years, Haley now has a cadaverous look like he's being consumed from the inside, and his beady-eyed pressurized work keeps you on pins and needles. He and Winslet received the lion's share of accolades at awards-time last year, but the film itself should have received more attention...certainly more than "The Departed" did. Todd Field is a guy to watch.

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