We need more directors willing to take risks with films like Get Out.
Kids. They can be so darned exasperating. Especially when they're in their 30s or 40s or 80s. Pre-pubescent youngsters cavort and splash through the parks, playgrounds and swimming pools of Todd Field's "Little Children," but they're not the most obnoxious or ill-behaved creatures on the screen. The ostensible grown-ups are much more cruel, stubborn and oblivious to the indiscriminate damage they're doing -- to their children, each other, and themselves. Yes, they're old enough to know better, but of course that's the point: They don't even know that much about themselves.
"Little Children" shows us a sun-dappled New England that's every bit as creepy and disturbing (and sometimes eerily beautiful) as the Halloween version: Stephen King in summer. Stagnation and moral rot are as hot and heavy as the air itself, and there are little monsters scurrying everywhere. A husband and father haunts a seamy porno Web site. A convicted child molester lurks beneath the surface of the public pool. A raging bully prowls the streets after dark, stalking his scapegoat with unfathomable fury. These people sweat guilt, paranoia and recrimination; the bad feelings bead up on their skin but won't evaporate.
It's an odd and squirmy movie, in some ways as slick and facile as "American Beauty." But that movie had an empty plastic bag for a heart, and "Little Children" is more than arch yuppie satire -- though it's that, too. There's a humane sensibility beneath the surface that's simultaneously sympathetic and fiercely judgmental. Maybe it's that New England Puritanism, angels and devils endlessly wrestling.
The characters, all of whom share a mind-boggling immaturity, break down (and break up) into couples: Sarah (Kate Winslet) is a mom with a master's degree in literature who feels closer to Madame Bovary than she does to her young daughter, whom she views as an alien being. She's married to Richard (Gregg Edelman), an older and extremely unattractive person. This marriage is a contrivance, which exists only so Sarah can feel an overwhelming compulsion to leave it.