Welcome to suburbia!
It took director Todd Field 5 years to come up with another movie after In the Bedroom, which I watched back in 2001. It's kinda strange that while at first glance I'd think his movies are a tad boring, in both occasions - for In the Bedroom and now Little Children, I ended up glued to the screen, and find myself sucked deeply into the proceedings. Somehow he managed to draw me into the story, feel for the characters, build up excellent tension all the way to the end, before releasing me from its grasp in the well thought finale.
Things might not always be interesting, but Little Children offers a tight drama and excellent characterization. Based on a novel by Tom Perrotta who also co-wrote the screenplay with Todd Field, Little Children looked very much like Desperate Housewives in its introductory scenes, with the voice over narration, and well, housewives going about their daily routine of caring for their children, mindless idle chatter and gossips, and lusting over the "prom king", their fantasy hunk who's actually a house-husband (Patrick Wilson).
That aside, it didn't take too long for the catalyst of a dare to spring things into motion, with Sarah (Kate Winslet) making bold contact with Brad (Wilson), much to the dislike of her peers. It's interesting to note that neighbourhood politics also rears its ugly head, with ostracizing of fellow neighbours for trespassing against you even for the most minute, or innane reasons. This movie captured such moments succinctly, and no doubt you could probably identify a moment of two, whether you're on the side that dishes out such negativeness, or are actually on the receiving end.
The relationship between Sarah and Brad, which becomes a highly sexually charged one, takes on a life of its own as it threatens their respective holy matrimony. But it's curious that you start to wonder if their dalliances could be justified in a warped sense of the way. Trapped in unhappy marriages with emotional zilch, it didn't seem that each of them will want to carry on making things work, instead opting for quick fixes with someone else, though it degenerates quickly to constant banging.
It's a study into the lives of two families. Sarah and Richard Pierce (Gregg Edelman), who experience a total meltdown in their ties when he exhibits his infidelity and probable deviant relationship with Slutty Kay. And Brad and Kathy Adamson (Jennifer Connelly, totally hot, which states that there absolutely no logical reason why anyone would want to cheat on her), in their reversal of roles, financial issues and the former's lack of ambition, put a strain on their relationship, especially when Kathy isn't satisfying Brad's primal urges. Put two and two together, you see an immoral solution of revenge and an outlet for satisfaction, but two wrongs don't make a right. The respective spouses don't get much airtime (a pity for fans of Connelly), though they serve as ample backdrop that yes, our adulterous couple are cheats in their own ways too.
The movie makes you judge and question the intent and actions of the adulterers, and it doesn't make it easy with no clear answers, much like real life. Weaved into the main plot, is a separate short, though it may seem to be the more powerful one. Convicted pedophile Ronnie (Jackie Earle Haley) is released back to society, much to the resentment of the community he lives in. At first glance, he looks harmless, and you wonder if it could be another case of Boo Radley. But as we go along, again you're subconsciously drawing conclusions, while at the same time, made to understand the plights of a man who can't control his strange urges. You will probably feel sorry, then angry, and flip flopping between empathy and disgust. And in this story arc, it demonstrates that mother's love is almost always unconditional. Don't expect something like The Woodsman, but perhaps something a little more, from Jackie Earle Hayley's excellent acting, and the material he has to work upon.
There are other sub plots put in, which spices the movie up, like the Guardians touch-football that boys will always be boys, the one man crusade against Jackie, and a scene which sums up the feelings of Sarah at a book club reading, which I thought their discussions accurately paralleled the emotions of what Sarah's going through at the moment. One thing to note is that the editing is seamless and smooth, which transitions between scenes almost flawlessly, though you can't help but to notice it. The movie might seem to go on and on, and somehow I almost wished that it wouldn't end (seriously), but it built up to a tension filled conclusion and ended with what I think was a nice resolution to almost all the issues presented, though not all perfectly, or in the way it should be.
But that's life, and life goes on. Little Children makes recommended watching this week.