Friday, January 26, 2007

Suffer Little Children

It's not often I post on a film I walk out of but the particular violence with which I raised myself out of my seat and left Little Children warrants mention. The director is Todd Field, a man who I have followed ever since he starred, over ten years ago, in Walking and Talking by Nicole Holofcener, one of the best US indy movies of the last twenty years, and, needless to say, one of the most underrated too. It was a charming, witty, unpretentious, low-key gem and though Field was one of the lesser lights of the cast, which also included Catherine Keener, Anne Heche, Liev Schrieber and Kevin Corrigan, he was given the best line of the film. Having had enough of hours of Shawn Colvin on a road trip, he moans to the women in the car: 'How much longer do we have to listen to this vagina music?' All the funnier for having been written by a woman.

Holofcener went on to direct quite a lot of Sex and the City while Field has himself become a director, starting off on a high with In the Bedroom, which was nominated for five Oscars five years ago. I have yet to see that but I can't say I really want to having seen enough of his latest effort, an arch 'serious comedy' about a paedophile lurking in suburban Connecticut. Kate Winslet is a young mother who starts an affair with a househusband whom she meets at the local playground. The Madame Bovary connotations are hammered home by the mention of said book at one of the local housewives' Book Club. And then there is the ever-so-ironic voiceover that sounds like it is filched from a novel by one of those tiresome young over-verbose Yank novelists such as David Foster Wallace or Dave Eggers. Film that sounds like literature is usually dubious enough; film that sounds like bad literature should be put down at birth. The local toughs have also started forming a vigilante group that is viewed with distaste by all the goodies in the film - Winslet and her lover (played by Patrick Wilson) and, of course, Field himself. The paedophile might be bad enough but those getting too het up about him are as bad; thus lies the moral of a film made by facile lefty thirtysomethings slagging off facile square thirtysomethings. One would have thought that Field would have studied American Beauty closely and resolved not to make a crock of shit like it. But I suppose some people's ambitions lie elsewhere.

In any case it is not below Field to cast the paedophile as the stock weirdo of modern legend, an ugly, balding, loner ogre to match those in traditional fairytales. First, while on an exclusion order from children's recreation areas he takes a dip in a crowded pool of kids in full view of their parents. When my disbelief got weary from being suspended for too long by this it gave up a couple of scenes later when the perv's Norman Bates-like relationship with his mother is revealed. That was as far as it got. When you are having your intelligence being insulted by utter shite as this it is time to go. Not surprisingly this film was in the running for Oscars, and Winslet picked up a nomination for her role as the frumped-up housewife. There is a good reason why I don't go to many Hollywood films anymore: even the ones aimed at adults, the so-called 'quality' pictures are infantile. And they still find the time to be pretentious, God bless them.