I was walking home the other evening having just watched this at the theatre. Two guys were ahead of me on the street and had just seen it as well. Not intending to listen in on their conversation ... I did anyway, *LOL*. One asked his friend what he thought about the movie and the second took a moment to think about it. His answer? "Twisted man, too twisted!" Thoreau wrote in Walden that "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." In 'Little Children,' we see that quiet desperation played out to full effect by desperate housewives, ex-cons and damaged loners. A deep study of loneliness, 'Little Children' is morally ambiguous and doesn't judge. It uses humour, it uses dread, and it is a film that is at times quirky, intelligent and ultimately fascinating.
I liked a lot of things about this movie and in the week since I saw it, I've grown to like it more. Thematically it should have been a terrible downer: a collection of people who've all settled into what seems like the beginning of the end. They've married, started having kids and every single one of them wakes up in the morning with dread. "Is this all that is left?" They have become, or more importantly, believe that they have become completely purposeless in the next of a continuing doldrum of empty days. Eternity awaits and eternity is purposeless existential hell.
What is remarkable about a film whose subject should be so bleak, is the warmth and humour within it. Characters in 'Little Children' reject the lack of purpose, the unhappiness and try to re-inject a passion for life that they once had. At its most extreme, the quest for passion and purpose is lead by Noah Emmerich -- certainly most of the humour comes from his character. Winslet, Wilson and Emmerich are all flawed (who isn't?) but sympathetic. And then there is Jackie Earle Haley.
How difficult must it have been to play a convicted sex offender who is both repellent and *gasp* sympathetic? If you're Jackie Earle Haley and you are stealing a film away from bigger stars and you've got a great part, then apparently it isn't very hard at all. Creepy, potentially dangerous but also fairly benign and pitiable, Haley gives a much over-looked performance in what is quickly becoming a much over-looked film. He has given what I think is one of the best performances this year, and what is certainly the best performance of his entire career.
'Little Children' is "twisted man, too twisted" but it is also very good and very compelling. Well worth the risk and extremely well paced. It was only after the film had ended that I noticed how long the film was. Completely engrossing, I recommend it highly.
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