Kate Winslet’s ‘Little Children’
Based on the novel by Tom Perrotta, ‘Little Children’ chronicles the relationships between various members of a small suburb in Massachusetts who meet on a local playground.
After watching the trailer, I developed the impression that the film would be two-dimensional and predictable, focusing on two unsatisfied parents who meet at the playground and begin a typical affair.
However, viewing the actual film was as rewarding as a great book, one in which the characters and plot are thoroughly examined and nothing occurs without good reason.
To give an example, Sarah Pierce, the adulterous mother played by Kate Winslet (‘Titanic,’ ‘Finding Neverland’), attends a book club meeting to discuss ‘Madam Bovary,’ a novel in which the protagonist is an unhappily married woman who has two affairs.
While the comparisons between ‘Madam Bovary’ and Sarah are obvious, her analysis of the text provides deeper insight into her feelings about her own affair. This scene was very enlightening and I appreciated that Sarah used a book as her confidante instead of simply confiding in a friend.
After meeting Brad (Patrick Wilson) at the playground, Sarah’s world is filled with a rare burst of excitement. Their friendship eventually becomes an affair and makes Sarah feel alive again.
Sarah also provides welcome relief in Brad’s life. A stay-at-home dad, Brad has had trouble passing the bar exam and is bored with his life as the caretaker in the family.
Winslet’s character is one to which many stay-at-home mothers can relate. Pierce does not fit into this clique as she frequently forgets snacks for her daughter Lucy and does not feel fulfilled by her role as a mother. She constantly checks her watch, counting down the hours until her husband Brad returns home.
Perrotta describes how he and Field ‘were hoping to make something new out of the novel on which the film was based, instead of simply reproducing the book onto film.’
‘The attraction of a film adaptation lies precisely in this opportunity to re-imagine my book with someone else, and explore new possibilities for the characters and the story,’ Perrotta said.
The film’s humorous scenes are presented well. One highlight comes when one of the cliques of mothers sharing their marriage and parenting tips, goes so far as to say that she and her husband schedule time each week for sex (Tuesdays at 9 p.m.).
While the theme of adultery is a main part of the film, many relationships are also explored in this small community. When a formerly incarcerated sex offender arrives in the neighborhood, he creates an uproar in the town.
This man, Ronnie McGorvy (Jackie Earle Haley), comes to represent a scapegoat in the film. Because his sins were broadcast nationally on the nightly news, residents see him as a personification of pure evil. Some go so far as to spray-paint ‘Evil’ on the path leading up to his house. McGorvey’s character is expertly woven into the film.
The character relationships are written very realistically and make this movie worth watching. The end of the film will surprise the audience.
‘Little Children’ leads the viewer to empathize with individuals whom we might normally cast as evil or morally repugnant. The film offers an unspoken message that on the screen, as in real life, we sometimes judge others more quickly than ourselves.