"Shadows present, foreshadowing deeper shadows to come." -- Herman Melville

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December 8, 2006

Little Children
US 2006, Directed by Todd Field
Screenplay by Todd Field and Tom Perrotta
Based on the novel by Tom Perrotta
(**) of four

The disappointing new feature from In the Bedroom director Todd Field, Children falters by failing to settle on a consistent tone, flitting between its influences and contemporaries when convenient without declaring its own identity. It flirts with the black humor and stifling suburban angst of American Beauty and Todd Solondz's work, but stops short of Beauty's sweeping melodrama and doesn't cross the line into Solondz's darkness. It teases a crescendo, but pulls back and abruptly ends instead. As such, you can't quite shake the feeling that you've seen this movie before, only better. The omniscient narration feels clunky and underdeveloped, an out of place remnant of the movie's literary roots, and it awkwardly butts into Children early on before nearly disappearing altogether. It's surprising that Field and Perrotta were unable to strike a balance between these elements (the pedophile storyline, in particular, feels like wasted space), especially with such a strong cast in hand (here's hoping theatrical veteran Patrick Wilson, fresh off one of the best performances of the year in Hard Candy, has a long and successful film career). Hopefully it won't take Field another five years to make his next movie and he can get back on track.

(Postscript Fun Fact: As an actor, Field's popped up in numerous movies and TV shows (including Eyes Wide Shut as piano player Nick Nightingale), but most recently, he's provided the voice of everyone's favorite talking pile of mold, Ol' Drippy from Aqua Teen Hunger Force).