Length: 130 minutes
Director: Todd Field (In the Bedroom; HBO’s “Carnivale”)
Writer: Tom Perrotta (Election (novel); Little Children (novel))
Starring: Kate Winslet, Jennifer Connelly, Patrick Wilson, Jackie Earle Haley, Noah Emmerich, Jane Adams
Damn you Todd Field! You frustrated the hell out of me again… First it was his 2001 directorial debut “In the Bedroom”. Highly touted and nominated for all the important Oscars, I went into the theater and was thoroughly impressed up until the third act where it completely fell apart. Same thing with his follow-up “Little Children”. The difference here is this film takes slightly longer to implode on itself- which made the damned thing even more frustrating. The first two hours deal with all ready overly saturated themes better suited for Lifetime movies (ditto “Bedroom”) and gives them breathes of fresh air. The depictions of an extra-marital affair and a rehabilitating child molester are actually honest and true for a change. They side step most of the clichés that we usually see in the films that deal with such subjects. Once I realized I only had fifteen minutes or so until the movie ended, I was ready to give Field some well deserved credit- and then he goes and ruins the entire movie (I was literally yelling "No!" over and over again at the TV). The worst offense in a movie- in my book- is to tack on an ending that seems forced- or in this case lazily pretentious. Kate Winslet (a much deserved Oscar nomination for her performance) plays Sarah Pierce. She’s trapped in a loveless marriage with a sweet young daughter. Her husband (Gregg Edelman) has developed an online relationship with an internet porn star and she catches him red-handed masturbating to her photos with a pair of the porn star’s panties wrapped around his face. Sarah's circle of “friends” aren’t very supportive and are more interested in gossip and drooling over the neighborhood’s studly 'Mr. Mom' they have nicknamed “Prom King”. On a five dollar bet, Sarah goes over to talk to the “Prom King” at the park and one thing leads to another and they share a hug and then a quick kiss. “Prom King” is actually a failed lawyer named Brad Adamson (Patrick Wilson). He is trapped in a marriage that isn’t necessarily loveless, but is lacking passion. His wife, Kathy (Jennifer Connelly), prefers to have their young son in their bed over him. Brad and Sarah ignore their kiss, but start to spend more time together with their kids at the community pool. It doesn’t take long before one thing leads to another. The other plotline in the story deals with a recently released from prison child molester named Ronnie (former child star Jackie Earle Haley in an Oscar nominated performance). He lives with his mother (Phyllis Somerville) who is in denial about her son’s perversions. She tries to set him up on dates, but a dinner with a lonely women (Jane Adams) ends in the most awkward way possible (to put it lightly). Ronnie, though, has bigger issues to deal with- the neighborhood wants him out and a “retired” policeman (Noah Emmerson) goes out of his way to make Ronnie’s life a living hell. Can’t say that there’s much original about the storylines- but Field has a way of making the viewer feel like voyeurs. The dialogue and character reactions are painstakingly perfect. There’s not an unbelievable transaction or forced moment for 90% of the movie. That’s why that damned conclusion stings so bad. It’s as if things went all “Apocalypse Now” and they had to tack on an ending just to have one. I think I like Todd Field the actor much better. After all, how cool was Nick Nightingale in “Eyes Wide Shut”? No let down there.