Little Men (2016)

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Released:  Friday, August 5, 2016  
Length:  85 minutes
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
Genre: Drama/Suspense
Rating: Little Men is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of AmericaSome material may not be suitable for children.


Synopsis

When 13-year-old Jake's (Theo Taplitz) grandfather dies, his family moves from Manhattan back into his father's old Brooklyn home. There, Jake befriends the charismatic Tony (Michael Barbieri), whose single mother Leonor (Paulina Garcia), a dressmaker from Chile, runs the shop downstairs. Soon, Jake's parents Brian (Greg Kinnear) and Kathy (Jennifer Ehle) -- one, a struggling actor, the other, a psychotherapist -- ask Leonor to sign a new, steeper lease on her store. For Leonor, the proposed new rent is untenable, and a feud ignites between the adults. At first, Jake and Tony don't seem to notice; the two boys, so different on the surface, begin to develop a formative kinship as they discover the pleasures of being young in Brooklyn. Jake aspires to be an artist, while Tony wants to be an actor, and they have dreams of going to the same prestigious arts high school together. But the children can't avoid the problems of their parents forever, and soon enough, the adult conflict intrudes upon the borders of their friendship.

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Little Men Theatrical Review


In today's world of blockbuster car chases and super hero films, Ira Sachs' (Love is Strange) Little Men is an interesting change.  Delving into the ideas of childhood friendship and adulthood fights, it is a juxtaposition of innocence and lost ideals and dreams.   It reminds you of what was once good and pure and how it all changes.

When Brian Jardine's (Greg Kinnear; Little Miss Sunshine) father passes away, he moves his family into his childhood home in Brooklyn. His son, Jake (Theo Taplizt; Sorry to Say), isn't too eager to move, but soon finds a friend in Tony (Michael Barbieri; Killer).  As their friendship grows and each boy thrives, their parents' feud also grows, creating tension for everyone involved.

Brian's father not only owned and lived in a house in Brooklyn, he owned the shop below that he rented to Tony's mother Leonor (Paulina Garcia; The 33).  When Brian and his sister decide to raise Leonor's rent in order to cover operating costs, a silent war begins among the adults.  While the adults try not to involve the boys, they can't contain the anger as their conflict comes to a head.

While only an hour and a half long, Little Men is packed full of meaning and emotions.  The boy's friendship is joyous and fruitful, only to be spoiled by the actions of their parents.  Their creative energies make for some interesting, happy moments before the fighting tears their bond apart.

The adults' tentative friendship breaks apart when the legal issues over the store and the rent begins, and while they try to shield the boys from their issues, it slowly creeps into their everyday lives.  When the conflict comes to a head, it destroys the boys' bond irreversibly.

The cast is the real gem of the movie.  Kinnear is touching as the sensitive father who is a minimally successful actor unable to provide for his family.   Garcia is terrific as the single mother who is fighting to save her livelihood with biting words and silent facial expressions that say more than any dialogue could.  Taplitz and Barbieri show a level of maturity that belies their young ages.  They are talented individuals who will hopefully continue to grow and polish their skills.

Sachs takes a sensitive subject matter and intertwines it with human nature to make for a complex plot and unique storyline.  His writing and directing are fascinating and thoughtful and he shows the world a perspective we may not want so see, but are too interested in to turn away.

Though short, Little Men is powerful.  It makes one think and feel.  It will anger its audience, while impressing them with its cinematic beauty.  Worth watching, Little Men is sure to please it's audience.

Grade:B+

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