Little Children

Not a threat to the popularity of American Beauty

The middle class is restless in Todd Field's Little Children: Married Sarah (Kate Winslet) is having an affair with married "prom king" Brad (Patrick Wilson) while three married bitches gossip about the indiscretion like an underpaid Greek chorus. Meanwhile they also worry about sexual predator Ronald James McGorvey (Jackie Earle Haley) coming back to live with his mom.

This film is not a threat to the popularity of American Beauty, whose pathos and humor caught the mock heroic silliness of suburban America as opposed to the drab, almost humorless landscape Little Children inhabits. Mostly, this film carries foreboding for just about everyone, a damning indictment of suburban angst and guilt, partly true in its depiction of the infidelities that mark middle-class restlessness.

Little Children is not great filmmaking, but Winslet's and Haley's performances are Oscar-worthy. It has a somber, almost comic voice-over narration, not present the entire film, whose observations about Brad's feckless avoidance of studying for the bar exam and Sarah's cool attitude toward her little daughter confirm the director's vision of an adult world hardly safe for little children who endure adults, themselves little children.