Little Children

2006, Movie, R, 130 mins

Review

LITTLE CHILDREN
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In a perfect match of directorial style and source material, IN THE BEDROOM director Todd Field's second turn behind the camera is an excellent adaptation of Tom Perrotta's (Election) best-selling novel about adulterous spouses, child molesters, Internet porn and the bliss of American suburban life. Young married parents Sarah Pierce (Kate Winslet) and Brad Adamson (Patrick Wilson) don't hop into bed immediately after meeting at the neighborhood playground where they take their kids, but the sexual tension is there from the very start. Acting on a dare from one of the other moms who lust from afar after handsome, golden-haired Brad and whom Sarah secretly despises for their petty concerns and mundane conversation, Sarah asks Brad for his phone number; before either knows exactly what he or she is doing, they scandalize the priggish onlookers with an intimate embrace and kiss. It's meant as a joke, but the moment exposes a mutual need and a deep dissatisfaction with their lives. Sarah is a smart but somewhat fallen feminist who gave in to an unfulfilling life with a dull husband (Gregg Edelman), an advertising — sorry, branding — executive who's secretly obsessed with an amateur Internet porn starlet, and with a daughter (Sadie Goldstein) she doesn't seem to like all that much. Former high-school football star Brad, meanwhile, hasn't been nearly as successful in his adult life. Now married to beautiful but controlling Kathy (Jennifer Connelly), a documentary filmmaker whose wealthy family helps pay their bills, Brad has failed the bar exam twice and doesn't seem to care whether or not he passes on his third go-round. Brad gains some sense of purpose in his passionate affair with Sarah and his involvement with Larry Hedges (Noah Emmerich), an acquaintance who ropes him into playing touch football with a group of his former fellow policemen. Though only in his mid-thirties, Larry retired from the force after a terrible mistake resulted in an accidental shooting death and he now suffers from posttraumatic stress disorder. Now the only "policing" Larry does is his obsessive harassment of Ronald James McGorvey (Jackie Earle Haley), a convicted sex offender who's returned to the neighborhood after serving time in prison for exposing himself to a child. Determined to protect the decent people of East Wyndam, Massachusetts, from a pervert, Larry sets about terrorizing Ronnie and his elderly mother, May (Phyllis Somerville), with tragic results. Field, who cowrote the screenplay with Perrotta, chose to keep the writer's voice intact by employing an omniscient narrator for the first half of the film, and the film remains absolutely faithful to the book's tone: bone-dry, terribly funny and ever so cold around the edges. It's also brilliantly acted (Emmerich and former child star Haley, whom you might remember from THE BAD NEWS BEARS, are particularly good), and once again, Field has crafted and grown-up movie that grabs you by the throat, drags you in and doesn't let you go until the very bitter end. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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