Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Movie Log: Little Children

Well, I saw Little Children just over a week ago, and haven't thought of much to say about it. So I'll just go for the scatter shot thing.

First of all: this is an incredibly faithful translation of a book into a movie. Tom Perrotta, the author of the novel, co-wrote the script, and it shows: the male main character changed names from "Todd" to "Brad," and the ending is somewhat different, but otherwise the movie is very much a condensed version of the book's story. (The movie has essentially three viewpoint characters -- two of which are clearly dominant -- while the book has at least five, all of whom get substantial time.) So we lose some of the secondary-character stuff in the movie, but it still has a much wider cast of characters (whose function isn't simply plot-driven, or to revolve around the main characters) than is usual for a big movie. I do miss some of those secondary characters, but this movie was over two hours long already, so I can see why they were chopped down or eliminated.

Second: this is going to be hard to put in way that doesn't make me sound like some kind of deviant, but...I like the nudity in the sex scenes in this movie. Hollywood films usually show people having sex under huge duvets, or somehow being mostly dressed mere moments after having sex. But this movie is set during a hot summer, and the illicit lovers are naked -- not in a prurient way (we don't see much of anything), but just because that's how real people having sex in the middle of the summer would be. They also seem very sweaty and real; I believed in these two people and their affair.

Kate Winslet was nominated for an Oscar for this, and, not to diminish her performance (which is quite good, but not obviously better than the other actors in the movie), but...I suspect she was nominated because she is naked quite a bit, and her character is specifically described as less attractive than another woman. (That's not the whole reason -- it is a good performance -- but I'm sure there was a "Oh, she's so brave" element there.) Although, speaking personally, you'd have a hard time convincing me there are many things in this world more attractive than Kate Winslet naked.

Interestingly (to me), a book which was clearly set in suburban New Jersey has been moved to somewhere in Massachusetts for the movie. Hmm.

Also possibly Kate Winslet-related: in the book, I felt that the Todd character was clearly the center, but, for the movie, the renamed Brad is slightly moved off to the side, and Winslet's Sarah is the most important character.

Otherwise...it's just a really impressive, very good movie about real people living real lives. It is about infidelity and ennui in suburbia, but not in a depressing way, if you can believe that.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Glad you liked it. Myself, I DID find it depressing (though, to be fair, I haven't read the novel). So depressing that I stopped watching. I probably overreacted because I have a friend whose addiction to internet porn has wreaked much havoc in his life, so seeing it played in the movie for laughs disturbed me a little. Again, an overreaction, perhaps, but my reaction nonetheless. And though I sympathized w/ and truly liked the adulterous leads, they were still being adulterous and adultery is...well, depressing.

Next up: "Ice Age 2". It probably won't be any good, but I doubt it'll be depressing.

I enjoy the blog and the mini-movie reviews. Thanks!

J.

Andrew Wheeler said...

J.: I'd recommend the book Little Children, and only in part because Perrotta is one of my favorite contemporary writers. It is a deeper and more nuanced story than the movie, with several more viewpoint characters (notably Richard the porn freak, who isn't a joke inside his own head, and the "gang leader" of the young mothers). But, still, it is mostly a movie about adultery, which might not be what you're looking for. In which case, go read Perrotta's Election which was also made into a movie (though that also has some not-terribly-happy sex in it) or Joe College a Perrotta book that hasn't become a movie yet but is also good.

I didn't think the porn thing was exactly played for laughs in the movie, but I can see how just about any decent-sized audience would start laughing at his scenes out of discomfort. (Or maybe I brought my knowledge of the book to the movie, and read in more than was actually on-screen.)

Anonymous said...

Andrew,

Perrotta's one of those writers whose books I'm always picking up and looking at in the bookstore but never quite purchasing.I think part of my negative reaction to the film was that I'd been laboring under the assumption he was primarily a humor writer, and lo and behold, "Little Children" (the movie, at least)wasn't humor. I had expectations that weren't met.

I've heard good things about "Election" and will rent that one of these days.

Didn't Perrotta also write a novel about a rock band?

Thanks,
J.

Andrew Wheeler said...

J.: Yes, The Wishbones is the book about a band.

Perrotta has humor in his books -- Wishbones is probably the funniest -- but they're primarily novels about character, and people in situations where they're not sure what to do. They're not dour books, but they're not zany, either, so he's hard to characterize as anything other than just "fiction."

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