Little Men was touted as one of the breakout films at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year. The story revolves around two young boys who become friends who have their bond tested when their parents battle over a dress shop lease.
The story line involving the boys (Theo Taplitz as Jake Jardine and Michael Barbieri as Tony Cavielli) was interesting because it featured the start, middle and end to a friendship. The two become fast friends despite the fact that they come from different ethnic, cultural and financial backgrounds and had very different personalities with Jake being an introvert and Tony an extrovert. Both have a common love of the arts. Their parents’ conflict and the natural course of events cause them to grow apart and eventually separate over time. This is the most interesting part of the film because I don’t recall having seen the end of a relationship between two teenagers in a movie unless someone died, moved away or the friends had some sort of disagreement. It is honest, as sometimes in life a friendship simply runs its course.
You will recognize these teens. Tony is the tough talker whose insecurities are buried underneath a very outgoing and cool-looking exterior and Jake is the socially awkward loner who has trouble connecting to people his age and making friends. As far as the adults go, it is as if totally different people wrote these characters. The care that was taken to show the differences between the two youngsters and the development and decline of their relationship was cast aside and what was left was a mess of spewing declarations, insults and emotional tantrums from the adults. I did not recognize these adults. I don’t believe I know these people at all.
Jake’s father (played by Greg Kinnear) is this underachieving, semi-emasculated, struggling actor whose wife is currently the bread winner of the family. Although his wife, played by Jennifer Ehle never complained to him about this fact, she brings it up to a total stranger to defend their position to raise the rent on the property his father willed them. Then the woman who rents the property throws the fact that she was closer to Kinnear’s father than he was in his face, chastises him for never visiting his father and informs him that his father was ashamed of him for being a failure – to which Kinnear’s character had no reply.
I’m sorry. They lost me here. I live in a totally different world. Where I come from, you are more than welcome to personally attack someone in that manner, but be prepared to be greeted with some sort of protest, possibly in the form of being told off, cussed out or worse. Any human would become defensive and have some sort of response. Even if I know it is true, it is not your place to say. It is simply not done. In another scene Kinnear’s character insults Tony (his son’s new friend) and says something quite immature and emotionally hurtful with no apology offered at all.
The most relatable role was played by Talia Balsam as Kinnear’s sister, who was the voice of reason regarding the business surrounding the shop, pushing past her grief over losing her father, keeping the business aspects of the deal in perspective and eliminating the personal factors. Although she seems rather cold while doing so, she is the only adult character who consistently acts like an adult.
The acting in this movie was strong, despite the fact that the material the adults had to work with was mundane and these rude and disrespectful outbursts that were meant to be emotional moments only served to make them all seem like idiots.
Theo Taplitz and Michael Barbieri did an outstanding job; although I cannot understand why Michael’s Brooklyn accent sounded like he was from the cast of The Jersey Shore. He had a super “Italian-American accent” that didn’t quite fit the character, but he was so good in the role he made it his own and it was forgivable.
Little Men is not a “bad” movie, but neither would I recommend it. The adults are so annoying at times I cannot say who it will appeal to, but it did not appeal to me. Little Men earned 5 bloops out of 10. It is a so-so movie that is worth a look to check out the work of the younger actors, if you don’t have to pay.