A review of “Little Children” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ****

Rating: R for language, nudity and sexual situations

Run Time: 2 hours, 17 minutes

 

 

Todd Field’s adaptation of Tom Perrotta’s exacting novel of dubious adult behavior is a dark and delicious treat.

“Children” opens with the idyllic picture of innocence as toddlers navigate the sticky wickets of the local playground under the watchful eyes of their pretty suburban mothers. On closer inspection the women are snide and snippy gossip-mongers, waxing less than rhapsodic about sex, marriage and things that go bump in the night.

Enter Brad Adamson (Patrick Wilson), dubbed “The Prom King”, a handsome, married Mr. Mom whose devotion to his own little guy is exceeded only by his studly good looks and his delightfully puzzling background.

Not one for standing on ceremony free-spirited mom Sarah Pierce (Kate Winslet) gets to the bottom of Brad’s daily appearance at the park by striking up a conversation. Much to the delight and dismay of the jealous mommies.

A tiny spark becomes a brushfire and ultimately a raging inferno of love and lust. Sarah’s stay-at-home boredom is cast aside for daytime trysts and nighttime fantasies while husband Richard (Gregg Edelman) surfs the internet in search of his porno mistress’ latest high jinx.

For his part Brad pretends to be studying for the bar exam while making limp excuses to hard-driving filmmaker spouse Kathy (Jennifer Connelly) who wants more from her future than an out-of-work mate.

A heady sense of anxiety comes courtesy of a neighborhood campaign to keep registered sex offender Jackie Earle Haley (Ronald James McGorvey) off the streets and away from the community’s children. Haley’s twisted needs and abnormally close relationship with his mother make for a stimulating tangent.

“Children” reads like a contemporary fantasy, a stark adulterous reality with darkly curling comic edges. The creative anatomy of friends turned lovers. Melancholy moods inexorably linked to unbridled glee. A witty, instructive voice-over takes passages directly from the novel and croons them with warm caramel undertones.

Chemistry between Wilson and Winslet is flawless, their alliance as nimble as their coupling is hot. Fields relentlessly picks at scabs of domestic bliss that conceal sorrow, betrayal and futile fulfillment.

Original, challenging and resonant.