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David Poland raves and raves and raves about Little Children.

It's my favorite trailer of the year, and I just picked up the book.

According to Poland, it's the first American masterpiece of the year, an Oscar-front-runner, and may be the big Oscar winner for Kate Winslet.

And there's a lot more in his early, early, early review that has sent this to the top of my must-see list for the fall season.

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Has anybody else seen this yet? There's one line that both a colleague and I missed, in my case because I was still processing an earlier line of dialogue, and THEN the Narrator suddenly piped up and made a big deal out of how important and meaningful this line became to somebody -- and neither my colleague nor I knew what the line in question WAS. So, if anybody else has seen it, please tell me, What was the line!?!?

This is one of those movies that makes me wish I had studied psychology, especially of the Freudian kind. I will definitely have to see it again before I can really start digesting it.

It may not be a CENTRAL theme, but the theme that my mind is latching onto for now is the theme of what a person "wants" and whether his or her actions reflect those "wants". Yes, yes, everybody's going to latch onto the themes of infidelity and pedophilia (or whatever that one character is; at the beginning of the film, he has just come out of two years of prison for "indecent exposure", but I don't know how broadly or narrowly we should interpret that phrase), but I find myself thinking also of the character who says, early on, that he has failed the bar exam twice, and of the character who replies something like, "You must not want it, then."

I am vaguely reminded of people I have encountered who say that concepts like "addiction" are just crutches for those who don't want to admit that they actually WANT to take drugs; if they really DIDN'T want to take them, then they would stop taking them. (Yes, these people are also not-very-impressed by St. Paul's "what I want to do, I don't do, and what I don't want to do, I do" line.)

And I could say more about this theme, but it would mean giving away part of the ending. So I won't. I do appreciate, though, how, when the film makes the theme of "wanting" things most explicit -- in a montage involving the Kate Winslet character's husband and his co-workers -- it does so in a context which indicates that the old Woody Allen excuse ("the heart wants what it wants") is pretty lame, and no excuse for the harm that one does to oneself or to one's relationship with others.

FWIW, according to the IMDB, the film has already played Telluride and Toronto, and it plays New York this Friday before opening the Friday after that.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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I missed the part in Jeffrey's earlier post about this film being based on a book. So I was surprised, pleasantly, to stumble across the 10-CD audio book today at the library. I checked it out and will start into it later this week.

Peter: If all else fails, you could go to the bookstore, or the library, and try to pin down where that line might occur, *assuming* it also occurs in the novel, and not only in the adapted screenplay.

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I actually don't know when it "opens" here, but I do know that it's playing the Vancouver Int'l Film Festival on October 8 and 11. I saw it at a press screening yesterday.

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I actually don't know when it "opens" here, but I do know that it's playing the Vancouver Int'l Film Festival on October 8 and 11. I saw it at a press screening yesterday.

And now you think of the title whenever you look at your avatar, right? :) Actually, per your own comment in another thread, the avatar would be "Little Child," wouldn't it? Ah, well. It's a great picture.

Why am I writing this? It has nothing to do with the movie.

Did you figure out that mystery line of dialogue?

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Christian wrote:

: Did you figure out that mystery line of dialogue?

Not yet, no.

In the meantime, one thing I've been wondering is whether the climax to one of this film's subplots will

produce compassion

or

produce feelings of satisfied judgmentalism

(no plot spoilers, just descriptions of the effects the ending might have on the audience -- but even THAT might hint at something, I dunno, so I'm blacking the words out just to be safe). Jeffrey Wells's latest post on the film suggests that he falls squarely into the latter camp, though I wonder if the filmmakers might put themselves in the former camp.

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Ouch:

I'm sorry, an interesting premise, a keen eye and a veneer of emotional seriousness are not enough. "Little Children" is going to get some very good reviews, and right now its producers are expecting to line up onstage at awards shows toward the end of winter. That doesn't change the fact that it's an unholy mess, simultaneously too Gothic and too sarcastic, that preaches liberation and delivers only puritanism. It's a craftsmanlike but robotic imitation of "interesting" filmmaking, only in patches, and by accident, the real thing. Let it win awards; no one will even remember it in five years.

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Let it win awards; no one will even remember it in five years.

Huh. A film starring Kate Winslet and Jennifer Connelly that's directed by the guy who did In the Bedroom and is written by the guy who wrote Election, and no one will remember it in five years? Possible, I suppose, but I find that hard to believe.

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I can appreciate the charge of "unholy mess", but that isn't necessarily a bad thing; this is one of the reasons I think I would like to see this film a second time before passing any sort of judgment on it.

Oh, and Christian, FWIW, I just got an e-mail saying the film opens in Vancouver November 3. (So all you Vancouverites out there who don't want to wait, see it at the film festival this week!)

(Side note: The e-mail also said that Renaissance, which I also saw at a press screening, and which has been making the festival rounds, would not be opening in theatres at all. So again, all you Vancouverites out there who want to see it on the big screen, see it at the film festival this week.)

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Has anyone but me read/listened to the book yet? It's been about a year since I read it, but a line from a review in Elle caught my eye: something about how the movie adaptation "defies the morality of the book." In the book, I felt Perrotta really was condemning (in that gentle way us authors of fiction condemn our characters) the characters behavior. If that aspect is gone, it will certainly be interesting, but it will be a different story than the book. Unless I totally misread the Elle review and/or the book.

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Has anyone but me read/listened to the book yet? It's been about a year since I read it, but a line from a review in Elle caught my eye: something about how the movie adaptation "defies the morality of the book." In the book, I felt Perrotta really was condemning (in that gentle way us authors of fiction condemn our characters) the characters behavior. If that aspect is gone, it will certainly be interesting, but it will be a different story than the book. Unless I totally misread the Elle review and/or the book.

Thanks, Sara. I'm just nearing the end of disc 1, and it's clear that the author is jabbing at his characters, particularly Sarah and the school-yard moms.

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The behavior of the playground moms in the book is disturbing... and very realistic.

I can almost guarantee that certain Christian media personalities will attack the movie as an attack on conservative values if this carries over to the screen.

BUT, I agree that Perrota is jabbing his characters too, and being very fair to all of the characters in portraying their contradictions and misbehaviors.

I. Cannot. Wait. to see this movie.

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One of the things I love about this film is the way it uses the voice-over narration to create a sense of detachment from the characters -- not unlike Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon, which coincidentally also featured Kubrick associate Leon Vitali in its credits, just as Little Children does (director Todd Field was one of the actors in Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut). Does the narration "jab" at the characters? Not sure, but it definitely prevents us from immersing ourselves completely in their emotional worlds.

FWIW, my comments on Kubrick's very different uses of voice-over in A Clockwork Orange (1971) and Barry Lyndon (1975), particularly the latter film:

The first thing that strikes me about this film, after the cinematography, is the narration. In
Clockwork
, Malcolm McDowell's narration has the effect of pulling us into the mind of his rather deranged character. But in
Barry Lyndon
, the narration, which is provided by an actor who does not play any of the film's characters, has the effect of pushing us away from them. I don't think any of Kubrick's other films used narration, except for maybe a brief prologue in
Spartacus
(which was just a director-for-hire job anyway) and perhaps to smoothe over the segues in
The Killing
(and even that, I'm not sure about), so it's quite striking to compare his use of it in these two back-to-back films from the 1970s. The film is named for the main character, but it does not force us to identify with him; we find ourselves observing him from a detached distance, as he tries to climb the social ladder of 18th-century England, and this studied neutrality reaches its climax in the final title card, which tells us that all the characters -- whether beautiful or ugly, rich or poor -- are "all equal now". That is, they are all dead now.

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One of the things I love about this film is the way it uses the voice-over narration to create a sense of detachment from the characters -- not unlike Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon, which coincidentally also featured Kubrick associate Leon Vitali in its credits, just as Little Children does (director Todd Field was one of the actors in Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut).

Yowza! Field was in "Eyes Wide Shut"? Yup -- he was Nick Nightengale. I had no idea.

I don

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One of the things I love about this film is the way it uses the voice-over narration to create a sense of detachment from the characters -- not unlike Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon, which coincidentally also featured Kubrick associate Leon Vitali in its credits, just as Little Children does (director Todd Field was one of the actors in Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut). Does the narration "jab" at the characters? Not sure, but it definitely prevents us from immersing ourselves completely in their emotional worlds.

I should really stop talking about this until I see it, but I liked the book and I like Perrotta, but I didn't love In the Bedroom ... and now hearing about the voiceover and the detachment, I'm worried the movie version is going to be American Beauty all over again. Which is a fine film, but I don't need to see it done again.

From the book's POV, all of the badly behaved adults are the "little children" of the title and Perrotta doesn't let anyone off the hook, but somehow it manages to be a lot less cynical and inspires more compassion than American Beauty. Maybe because in American Beauty, the voice of the story seemed to be, "Life sucks, people are bastards, and we all just have to grasp at whatever pathetic happiness we can get while treating each other like sh*t." The voice of Little Children (the book) feels more compassionate to me: "Look how effed up we all are, and we keep doing things to hurt ourselves and others, but what else do we know?" I'll shut up now until I see the movie! Love the cast.

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Sara Zarr wrote:

: From the book's POV, all of the badly behaved adults are the "little children" of the title . . .

Oh, that was pretty obvious to me, too, just from watching the film.

Have I mentioned, BTW, how none of the characters seems to have a father? The pedophile (or whatever he is) lives with his mother, and one character's husband inherited their house from his mother (IIRC), and another character's wife is in touch with her mother ... and there might be one or two other examples ... but I don't think we ever hear about any of the characters' fathers. So it seems to me that there is a sense in which the failure of these adults to grow up is somehow linked to the absenteeism of fathers. And only now, this minute, it hits me that the narrator of this film has a distinctly masculine voice (not an over-the-top one, just distinctly so) -- and I wonder if this narrator represents the absent paternal POV. (And I wonder if the narrator might be not only representative of the absentee fathers, but representative of the capital-F Father, too.)

Just thinking out loud, here.

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So I got the novel from the library a couple days ago, and I don't know when I'll have time to read it, and now I come across this article which makes me wonder if I'd even need to:

Todd Field didn't think there was a movie in Tom Perrotta's "Little Children." He believed the novel could be turned into an entire miniseries.

After discussions for an eight-part HBO adaptation didn't pan out, Field condensed Perrotta's book into a taut feature film, opening Oct. 6, that still included most of the book's suburban unrest plots and even some of its comic digressions -- with one significant exception.

"When you adapt a novel, you have to wage war on it. After I read the galleys I told Tom, 'I really love your book. And I hate the ending. It has nothing to do with your book,' " says Field, who adapted 2001's Oscar-nominated "In the Bedroom" from an Andre Dubus short story. "And Tom said, 'I know what you mean.' I said, 'It's got to change.' " Perrotta joined in the reworking and shares with Field a screenplay credit.

Readers of Perrotta's book will know what Field excised, a deus ex machina revelation by Ronald McGorvey, who has been convicted of indecent exposure. Field was less interested in a movie about sex crimes and bombshell revelations than he was in exploring connected stories about how mothers treat their children -- and their husbands. . . .

I kinda like how that last sentence confirms the "mother" theme that I was noticing. And FWIW, Barbara Nicolosi has mixed feelings about the film but concurs with one of my suspicions regarding the omniscient-but-compassionate narrator.

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Huh. This takes the wind out of the sails in listening to the audiobook, which I'm only halfway through but am enjoying. However, I'm at a point now where I'm wondering how/if Perotta will, or can, develop these characters. I can foresee where things will probably go, but I'm not sure what shadings there might be along the way to enrich the themes already established.

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I'm a fan of Eyes Wide Shut, but I like John Podhoretz's comparison in the current Weekly Standard (article not available):

The movie is the second directorial effort by Todd Field, a onetime journeyman actor whose last major part came seven years ago in Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut. There's a lot of disgruntled talk in film criticism circles that Field's movie owes a great debt to Kubrick, but the plain truth is that Field is a far better and more accomplished director. A comparison between Eyes Wide Shut and Little Children is instructive. Both are studies of marital anxiety and the potential cost of infidelity. But where Eyes Wide Shut is hysterical and risible, Little Children is precise and haunting. At no moment in Eyes Wide Shut does a single character do anything a member of the audience might do. At every moment in Little Children, characters are making exactly the kinds of mistakes and engaging in exactly the kind of self-destructive behavior that bedevil ordinary people every day.

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I should clarify. I find Podhoretz's comparison interesting, and I agree that the characters in EWS do things that "normal" people might not ever do. But EWS, while also about "marital infidelity," obviously is about that subject in a much different way than is Little Children. So the comparison breaks down.

The Field connection between the two movies, and the similar subject matter, keep me from finding the comparison altogether objectionable, even though I don't fully agree with it.

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Peter, was the line of dialogue you were wondering about

the moment at the dinner table, where Kathy realizes what's been going on?[

I remembered not being clear on this while listening to the book, and the movie didn't exactly clarify it. But I think it was evident that Sarah's line,

"You never told me about that"

, in conjunction with her remark preceding that comment, was what triggered Kathy's reaction.

There are some changes to the ending that I didn't care for, but I also found the book's ending a little lacking.

The most important changes are:

The missing crime attributed to Ronnie in the book, but not in the movie; and the missing church scene, with its confrontation between Larry and Ronnie

. The latter is the ONLY outwardly religious element in the book, IIRC, and its absence here makes the characters' universe seem all the more despairing. Still, that concluding exchange between

Larry and Ronnie spelled out a "moral lesson" that would've better been left unstated.

So that was disappointing, as was the elimination of the one thing that makes Ronnie

more than just loathsome -- potentially very, very dangerous

. Indeed, the similarities between

Larry and Ronnie, spelled out in Larry's dialogue, which was *added to the screenplay* and doesn't appear in the novel, IIRC

, force viewers to conclude that

everyone's on a level playing field.

The book gets at that, while allowing distinctions -- flaws of varying *degrees* -- that result in a

more complex finale, and take-away message.

Did I overdo it with the "spoiler" tage? :) I don't want to ruin the story for those who aren't familiar with it.

Edited by Christian

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