The unrestrained (and rather excellent) trailer for Todd Field’s Little Children would have us believe that the Whore of Babylon (possibly Kate Winslet) is coming for us on NJ Transit, with Pandora’s Box in hand. Expertly groomed for Oscar, this laughable concoction barely passes for satire—it is, nothing more nothing less, than the most pretentious film ever made about the problems festering in our suburban neighborhoods. Field literally and depressingly dehumanizes our world, shooting his actors in such a way that they come to resemble objects in a glass menagerie—animals (or fauna) trapped behind the bars, glass, and cages of a zoo (here, the white-picket fences of American suburbia), with the film’s droll narration interpreting their feelings so we don’t have to. This isn’t art, it’s reductivism, and the film is such that Winslet, a frustrated wife with a masters degree in English literature, will enter a room—furrowing her brow and thinking about porking Patrick Wilson’s “The Prom King”—with the narrator annotating, “Sarah entered the room, furrowing her brow and thinking about what it would be like to pork Brad.” Mixed into this condescending hogwash of Sarah and Brad’s unhappy lives and their attempts to stay loyal to their equally fucked-up spouses is the drama of a child molester, Ronald (Jackie Earle Haley), who returns to town after a two-year jail sentence; his every step is monitored by the insane Larry Hedges (Noah Emmerich), a former police officer with skeletons in his own closet. The point of this hollow provocation, as voiced by a gossipy mom Sara lectures about Madame Bovary (one of two Great Books mentioned by the story as a means of conveying the film’s Not So Great Themes), is that evil comes in different shapes and sizes, and that showing your pee-pee to someone you know can be as bad as showing it to someone you don’t. So, Sara and Brad are as retarded as Ronald (they are—wait for it—all little children), but more exciting will be trying to figure out who’s going to fucking “get it” on the Great American Beauty Scream Machine that takes off during the final minutes. Someone needs to promise me that they’ll edit a mash-up of this movie and scenes of Helen Lovejoy from The Simpsons screaming, “Will someone please think of the children!” Maybe then the dead seriousness of this shitstorm will become apparent to everyone.
This blog entry was originally published on Slant Magazine on the date above.