Wednesday, October 25, 2006

LITTLE CHILDREN - four reasons why this film is a fiasco

Let me be clear that when I go into a movie I really do want to enjoy it, especially when it comes with cast credentials as high as this. I hear all the Oscar buzz for LITTLE CHILDREN but I have to say that I just don't get it. I sat through this film waiting for that light to turn on - for the insight, the originality, the flair of vision or the emotional epiphany to happen. It didn't. I feel like I am missing out on this amazing movie experience that everyone is having.

So for what it's worth, here's why I didn't like LITTLE CHILDREN. First off, the film is based on a novel and the screen-writer/director, Todd Field, has opted to keep an intrusive, fairy-tale type narration of the kind I saw deconstructed in STRANGER THAN FICTION. The narrator has a voice like something out of Doctor Seuss. It seemed grossly out of place for a purportedly adult movie about marital infidelity and the re-introduction of a convicted sex offender into a conservative suburban community.

Second, the primary plot strand is dull. The film is basically the story of a bored suburban house-wife (Kate Winslet) and a disillusioned house-husband (Patrick Wilson) who have an affair. She, like Madame Bovary (a painfully over-worked metaphor in this film) hopes he will leave with her. The adultery story is handled in a workmanlike manner. It features a fairly explicit and yet completely unerotic and rather, well, ungainly, sex scene. It also features Winslet's character defending Madame Bovary as a heroic proto-feminist with a hunger for "options". There is nothing heroic about Winslet's character's struggles.

Third, the other inter-secting plot strand is handled in a clumsy and exploitative manner. The strand has the unhappy couple living in a community in an uproar because a convicted child abuser has moved in. The theme of sexual predators in suburbia has been handled with credible emotional authenticity and sensitivity by Kevin Bacon in the astounding movie, THE WOODSMAN. Watching THE WOODSMAN you got the feeling that everyone involved in the movie took a genuine interest in the emotional life of the molester. In this movie, he just seems like a conveniently shocking and "interesting" plot strand. The film-makers are as brutalising as the people in the community they are depicting.

The fourth reason why I didn't like LITTLE CHILDREN is that the whole thing was drained of energy and interest by bland cinematography, pedestrian editing and an over-long run-time for the subject matter. The plot meandered, skirting around larger issues that it never quite got a handle on. The director lingered on scenes that propelled the action and the character development (such as it was) not one iota. Sometimes the director's choice of focus is just plain odd. For instance, the cuckolded wife (Jennifer Connolly) is a two-dimensional character. We never learn much about her and it is hard to empathise with her. But all of a sudden she does get a scene editing footage for a documentary she is making. The footage shows a small child - far too young to string together the pretentious sentences he is uttering about his father's death in the Iraqi war. Does the director think that just by placing a small child in front of a picture of a dead soldier and a flag he will strike a chord? A movie is not something wherein you pack in random references and hope a meaning will fall out.

As a result, the film runs for over two hours and you feel every minute. This could be the most badly directed film playing the London Film Festival.

LITTLE CHILDREN showed at Toronto and London 2006. It is already on limited release in the US and opens wide in the US and in the UK on November 3rd. It opens in Australia in December, Turkey, Germany, Belgium, France and the Netherlands in January 2007 and in Spain in February.

1 comment:

  1. Well,I watched it last night and I just have to agree with you.