"(R) Three stars
There is plenty to appreciate about Little Children and plenty more to drive you nuts. At its core the film is about how young parents can fall in love with their babies, sometimes at the expense of falling out of love with their spouses. This would have made a compelling story, especially given the acting talent involved in this movie, but the filmmakers have another trick up their sleeves.
While we’re getting to know our new-parent couples Brad and Kathy (Patrick Wilson and Jennifer Connelly) and Richard and Sarah (Gregg Edelman and Kate Winslet) we’re also getting heaping dollops of the subplot: A convicted sex offender (Jackie Earle Haley) has been released from prison and the community responds with behavior tantamount to hate crimes.
The point, of course, is the moral relativism of it all, that there are the convicted sex offenders, then there are the rest of us — but we’re all questionable because we’re either unfaithful to our spouses or committing hate crimes against ex-convicts or, worst of all, being icily judgmental about all the above.
To cram these elements together, the filmmakers, director/writer Todd Field (In the Bedroom) and writer Tom Perrotta (Election), have to cut some corners and create two-dimensional characters to intertwine with their more fully realized subjects. The result is awkward, but what’s most goofy of all is the presence of a narrator.
We don’t know who he is; he’s just an authorial voice. And while he has some pretty funny lines, he’s annoying because when he speaks seems completely arbitrary. The film would play perfectly fine without voiceover; perhaps the DVD can offer a version sans narrator.
What else is annoying? Too little Jennifer Connelly. Note to Hollywood: If you’re going to put Connelly in a “supporting” capacity, expand the role anyway; she’s too good not to. Wilson, who was so effective in films like Hard Candy and Angels in America, carries his male lead role with command. And then there’s Winslet, who is always a marvel, in no small part because who else in Hollywood has managed to so consistently choose quality material over the arc of a career?