A well-known movie critic said about this movie (rated 97% on Rotten Tomatoes) “the most remarkable thing about Ira Sach’s richly textured new film “Little Men” is how it manages to be about so much, and yet so little”. I think this sums up the movie perfectly. On the surface, it is about the collateral damage of gentrification but simmering below is a story about love, friendship, coming of age and the complexity of life where decisions bring difficult outcomes for everyone involved.
Jake Jardine’s grandfather dies and his family inherits a Brooklyn apartment located in an area of escalating property values and containing a small dress shop on the first floor. They move in to the apartment above the shop and Jake (Theo Taplitz), a very introverted child with artistic abilities, becomes friends with the extroverted Tony (Michael Barbieri), the son of the dressmaker. There are beautiful scenes between the two as their friendship deepens and becomes the focus of their adolescent lives. The Director does a wonderful job of filming them travelling around Brooklyn, Tony on a scooter and Jake on roller blades, or playing video games with not a word passing between them.
Things take a turn for the worse when it turns out that the dressmaker has been charged very low rent by the grandfather and Jacob’s father (a strong performance by Greg Kinnear), a struggling actor, and his sister who have inherited the property need money. They go after a more market rent for the property, which creates serious tension between the two families. The boys are not allowed to go to each other’s homes and as a result, Jake and Tony give the silent treatment to their parents with unintended consequences.
I won’t give away the end but suffice it to say that this movie represents a slice of real life and the emotions of all involved are realistic as is the film’s ending. Life is a series of tough events for most of us and certainly is for the families in this film. If you get a chance to see this movie, take it. The acting is first rate, particularly the work of the boys, and journey the Director takes you from the first scenes until the final one is wonderful. It may be a story about “so little” but it gives us so much.
There is nothing new in this predictable story about a completely dysfunctional family (some with quirks that will irritate you) but it tugs at your heart and there is some great acting. The critics weren’t kind to it (48% on Rotten Tomatoes) but the audience score is almost double that which goes to show that regular people like this movie.
John Krasinski directs and acts in the film. He plays “John” son of “Don” brother of “Ron” (really?) who is a mid-thirtyish graphic artist living in NYC in a relationship with a pet clothes designer played by Anna Kendrick. They are about to become parents but John isn’t really ready to commit. John also appears to have some unresolved feeling towards his hometown girlfriend. For a guy in his thirties, John appears to be overwhelmed by his entry-level job, his girlfriend, impending fatherhood and life in general. When John’s mother becomes seriously ill in any town USA, his girlfriend puts him on a plane and he returns home.
Turns out John is the cream of the crop among the males of the family. His older brother Ron is unemployed, stalks his ex-wife and is generally pretty creepy. His father, played by the wonderful Richard Jenkins, is facing bankruptcy and cries about everything – Jenkins may be accused of being a little over the top here. The star of the family (and the movie) is Margo Martindale who plays the mom who keeps them all together. Her acting is suberb and makes every one in a scene with her better for it. She makes this movie worthwhile and worth seeing.
As I said, there isn’t anything original in this movie and you will leave with a couple of characters that you never want to see again but it is a solid “B” movie with some real feel good moments and you will likely enjoy it. Don’t go in to it thinking it is a comedy. It is a drama with some comedic moments (more at the beginning than the end) that delivers a strong message about family and relationships that will resonate with most.