Saturday, November 7, 2015

Little Children

Year 7, Day 310 - 11/6/15 - Movie #2,194

BEFORE: Jennifer Connelly carries over from "Noah", and she'll be back in December when I start up again, but after tonight I'm on break for a month.  The next few films are winter-themed or holiday-related, and I'm just not there yet.  It was almost 70 degrees in NYC today - in November, so it's hard to get in a holiday mood just yet. 

THE PLOT:  The lives of two lovelorn spouses from separate marriages, a registered sex offender, and a disgraced ex-police officer intersect as they struggle to resist their vulnerabilities and temptations in suburban Connecticut.

AFTER: If I didn't know any better, I'd think this film was an attempt to make me feel sympathetic for people who have affairs, and also pedophiles.  But that can't be possible, right?  Sure, other movies have explored the domain of cheating spouses, but by showing a sex offender as the target of a bullying campaign, there's an attempt here to make him the victim, almost the protagonist instead of an antagonist.  It almost feels like some screenwriter took this on as a specific challenge, or was trying to win a bet against someone who said he couldn't portray such a character as sympathetic.  

The only thing moderately interesting about this is that it points out a double standard, since we live in a society now where certain sexual practices that were once demonized are now more accepted, but others are not.  I mean, of course, an adult having sex with a minor is wrong wrong wrong, but what about someone's desire to do so?  That's wrong, too, of course - but then society tells these people over there that it's OK to be gay, it's OK for a boy to want to dress like a girl, it's OK to feel like you want to change genders, but then that person over there, his fantasies are not OK.  I just wonder how the thought police determine where to draw the line, and note that the location has changed over time.  

It's unstated if the title refers to the children of the film, or to the object of the pedophile's desires, or even the adults in the film, who tend to act like children.  Perhaps it's all three.  Since I'm not familiar with "Madame Bovary" I have to depend on other sources that tell me that the story here has echoes of that novel, and not just because one character attends a book club meeting where that story is being discussed.  But there is a lot of childish behavior going around in the suburbs of - Boston?  Long Island?  (The fictional town is East Wyndam, with a Massachusetts-style zip code.)

The lives of the main characters intersect and interact, with mostly tragic results.  The simple act of Kate taking her daughter to the park puts her in contact with Brad, the man she ends up having an affair with, and Brad's friend is the ex-cop who's also harassing Ronnie, the sex offender.  By the time Ronnie has an encounter with Kate in the same park late in the film, it feels like the story has come full circle, but it's perhaps a little too coincidental, a little too neat that so many tragic consequences can come from these four people (six or seven if you count their spouses and other close relatives) bouncing off of each other. 

There are, however, several stories that feel abandoned or unfinished.  Kate's husband is addicted to pornography, but even after his habit is disclosed, his wife says they need to talk, but I don't think they ever do - and then the topic never comes up again in the film.  Similarly, Brad's wife figures out the affair (through a combination of intuition and a strange deduction) but we never see the consequences of her knowing.  People eventually come to their senses, or grow up, or start to take responsibility, but we never see the confrontations or the fallout.  

The narration (performed by a man you've probably heard in countless documentaries) is a double-edged sword, because it gives the audience much-needed insight into the characters' states of mind, but it also distances us from them, turning them into something like animals in their natural habitat, being observed and analyzed from afar.  I wonder if the narration was added later when it was determined that the acting alone wasn't providing enough insight, which would signify a problem.  

It feels like this film came out at the tail end of a trend of tragic suburban pictures, which included films like "American Beauty" and "Happiness", but being a late entry in the category gave it a sort of "Been there, done that" quality.  

Also starring Kate Winslet (last seen in "The Life of David Gale"), Patrick Wilson (last seen in "Young Adult"), Jackie Earle Haley (last seen in "Shutter Island"), Noah Emmerich (last seen in "Miracle"), Gregg Edelman (last seen in "Cradle Will Rock"), Phyllis Somerville, Jane Adams (last seen in "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events"), Ty Simpkins, Sadie Goldstein, Trini Alvarado (last seen in "All Good Things") and the voice of Will Lyman.

RATING: 4 out of 10 touch football games

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